Conrad Black's Criminal Conviction Should Stand, U.S. Tells Appeals Court

Conrad Black’s criminal conviction for fraud and obstructing justice should stand, U.S. prosecutors told a federal appeals court. Defense lawyers, in a simultaneous filing, argued that the verdict should be struck down.

The U.S. Supreme Court had asked the appellate panel in Chicago to reconsider the 2007 jury finding in light of the high court’s June decision to limit the federal “honest services” fraud statute to instances of bribery and kickbacks not present in the Black case.

Black, the former Hollinger International Inc. chairman, was tried and convicted with three other company executives, after the jury was told it could find them guilty of honest- services fraud or conventional money-and-property fraud without having to reveal which theory they embraced.

“The erroneous honest services instruction was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,” prosecutors said in the 28-page brief submitted to the court today, arguing there was sufficient proof to find him guilty on the alternate grounds.

He and the other men were convicted for stealing $6.1 million from the Chicago-based newspaper publisher as they engineered its sale of assets.

“The honest-services theory provided the easiest route to conviction,” lawyers for Black and his three co-defendants told the appeals court in a filing today asking the panel to throw out the verdict in its entirety.

Convictions Upheld

The appellate panel had upheld the convictions in 2008, setting the stage for Supreme Court review. Prosecutors and the former press baron were required to file by today papers outlining their positions on the Supreme Court remand.

Copies of today’s filings were provided to Bloomberg News by prosecutors and the defendants’ lawyers. They weren’t immediately available on the court’s electronic docket

Black, 65, was freed from a federal prison in Florida on July 21 after serving more than two years and four months of a 6 1/2 year sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve, who had presided over the trial.

St. Eve, in a July 23 court appearance, fixed Black’s bail pending the appeal at $2 million, secured by the guarantee of investment banker Roger Hertog of New York, and confined Black to travel within the continental U.S.

Montreal-born Black later withdrew a request for permission to travel to his native Canada. His next court date is Sept. 20.

The trial court case is U.S. v. Black, 05-cr-00727, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). The appellate case is U.S. v. Black, 07-4080, 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Chicago).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew M. Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net.

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