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Black Won’t Be Retried on Some Charges, U.S. Says

Conrad Black, the former Hollinger International Inc. chairman, won’t be retried on two criminal counts related to the so-called honest services fraud statute, a federal prosecutor told a U.S. judge.

Black’s 2007 conviction on those counts was overturned by a federal appellate court panel in October after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the federal honest-services fraud statute four months earlier. He will be resentenced on the remaining two counts for which he was found guilty on June 24.

An author and former newspaper publisher, Black, 66, was tried and convicted with three other ex-Hollinger executives for their roles in stealing $6.1 million from the company.

“It is not our current intention to retry any of the defendants,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Porter said during a 15-minute court appearance today.

Hollinger, under Black’s leadership, was the world’s third-largest publisher of English-language newspapers, including the Chicago Sun-Times, Canada’s National Post, the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph and the Jerusalem Post.

Hollinger is now known as Sun-Times Media Group Inc.

The Chicago federal court jury convicted him and the three other defendants after a four-month trial.

U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, who presided over the case, later sentenced Black to five years in prison for the three fraud counts and 6 1/2 years on a separate jury finding that he had obstructed a federal investigation. The sentences were to be served concurrently.

Black served more than two years at a Coleman, Florida, federal prison before being freed on bail during his appeal.

Pair of Rulings

In a pair of June rulings, the Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the law under which prosecutors could charge a public official or corporate officer with depriving citizens and shareholders of their intangible right to honest services.

Federal prosecutors had used the law against former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling and ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The high court, ruling on appeals by Skilling and Black, said the honest-services statute could only be invoked in cases involving bribery and kickbacks, factors not in play in the Hollinger executives’ case.

The high court returned the Black case to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, directing it to determine whether the Black verdict could stand.

Conventional Theory

St. Eve had told jurors they could convict the defendants by applying a conventional theory of fraud or by applying the honest-services theory without having to reveal which they used.

The three-judge court of appeals panel overturned the jury’s verdict on two of the three fraud counts, finding it was possible, though unlikely, the jury may have decided upon guilt using the now-invalidated theory.

It upheld the remaining fraud finding and the obstruction verdict. Black is petitioning the Supreme Court for review of that ruling. The appeals court panel also said prosecutors could decide whether to retry Black and his codefendants on the overturned charges.

Porter today told St. Eve the government wouldn’t formally move to dismiss the overturned charges against Black until after the Supreme Court decides whether to consider the appeal.

“We are all awaiting the Supreme Court,” Black told reporters today as he left the courthouse. He and his lawyers declined to comment further.

The case is U.S. v. Black, 05-cr-00727, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

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