Conrad Black Must Return to Prison After New 3 1/2-Year Sentence Imposed
Conrad Black, the former Hollinger International Inc. chairman and chief executive officer, was resentenced for mail fraud and obstructing justice and must spend another year in prison.
A new sentence of 3 1/2 years, for the surviving convictions from his 2007 trial, was imposed yesterday by U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve in Chicago. Black will get credit for 29 months already served, a Justice Department spokesman, Randall Samborn, said after the hearing.
“I have always tried to take success like a gentleman and disappointment like a man,” Black told St. Eve before she imposed the sentence.
“I accept that a reasonable person could conclude that I am guilty,” he said, adding he also believed the same reasonable person could conclude he had been “adequately punished.”
This was the second time Black, 66, faced punishment at the federal courthouse since being convicted for his role in the theft of $6.1 million from the Chicago-based newspaper publishing company now known as the Sun-Times Media Group Inc. (SUTMQ)
His wife, Barbara Amiel, appeared to faint when the sentence was passed and was helped from the courtroom. The couple left together later. No date was set for Black to report to prison. He may face deportation following his prison term.
St. Eve sentenced Black to 78 months in prison in December 2007. He served from March 2008 to July 2010 before being freed on bail while pursuing appeals. An appellate court last year threw out two of three mail fraud convictions after the Supreme Court told it to consider whether they conformed to a recent high court decision.
The Supreme Court last month declined to consider Black’s challenge to the appellate ruling that let stand the final two convictions.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to reinstate the original 78-month term, arguing that his obstruction conviction, which stemmed from his unlawful removal of documents sought by the U.S. government from his Toronto office, remained undisturbed throughout the appellate process.
St. Eve in 2007 imposed the full 6 1/2-year term for that count, with five-year sentences for each fraud conviction set to run concurrently with the obstruction punishment.
“I still scratch my head as to why you engaged in this conduct,” St. Eve said yesterday before pronouncing sentence. “Nobody is above the law, including you,” she told Black.
Time Already Served
Black’s lawyers on May 13 filed a 50-page presentencing brief in which they extolled his behavior in prison and said his punishment should be reduced to the time already served.
A published author of biographies of U.S. presidents Richard M. Nixon and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Black served as a tutor and mentor to his fellow inmates while at the low-security Coleman Federal Correctional Institution.
Defense attorney Carolyn Gurland yesterday called his efforts there “nothing less than extraordinary.”
Prosecutor Julie Porter countered that Black is “a corporate CEO who stole from the company and obstructed justice,” and that Black still stands convicted of two crimes.
“Defendant’s conduct at Coleman, whatever it was, does not undo the crimes that were committed,” she said.
Hollinger International was once the world’s third-biggest publisher of English-language newspapers. Its publications included the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph, Canada’s National Post and the Jerusalem Post.
Forced to Resign
The Montreal-born Black served as the company’s chairman and CEO from 1995 to 2003. In November 2003, amid allegations of corruption, he was forced to resign as CEO and was fired as chairman two months later.
“His small group of students soon swelled into nearly every one of the Vocational Training Division’s General Equivalency Degree (GED) candidates,” according to his attorneys’ court filing. “Mr. Black estimates that he tutored more than 100 student inmates over the course of approximately 28 months.”
Letters written on his behalf demonstrate “the impact Mr. Black had on the students he encountered was nothing less than astounding,” his lawyers said.
“I don’t think it’s possible to conclude that justice would be done by sending him back to jail, even for a short time,” defense attorney Miguel Estrada said yesterday.
Prosecutors maintained that Black hasn’t accepted responsibility for his crimes. The government also submitted affidavits challenging the defense team’s account of Black’s contributions in prison.
“Black was one of three tutors assigned to my class,” said Carrie DeLaGarza, a Coleman prison-education specialist. “He did perform tutoring as he was assigned to do. I would not say, however, that Black went above and beyond what was expected of him in his job or impacted the program any differently than other tutors.”
Yesterday she said that in light of the multitude of letters she’d received from Black’s fellow prisoners, she wouldn’t rely upon DeLaGarza’s account.
Black and four other men were accused of stealing from Hollinger as they engineered the company’s sale of $3 billion in assets between 1998 and 2001.
The appeals court decision vacated two counts stemming from the alleged theft of $5.5 million by Black and three co- defendants, leaving intact jurors’ finding that Black and the other collaborated to take $600,000.
Black’s share of that money was $285,000 his lawyers said yesterday. Prosecutors elected to not retry the defendants on those counts for which their convictions were thrown out.
F. David Radler, the company’s former chief operating officer, pleaded guilty to fraud, agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors and testified for them at the four-monthlong trial. Radler, who was sentenced to 29 months in prison, was later transferred to Canadian custody, served 10 months and gained parole in December 2008.
St. Eve had said earlier that federal sentencing guidelines supported a term of 4 1/3 years to 5 1/3 years for Black.
“I do believe in the confession and repentance of misconduct,” Black said as he addressed St. Eve yesterday, adding that he wasn’t without remorse. “I regret a great many things in this sequence of events.”
Still, the silver-haired former CEO, whose lawyers said suffers from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a heart arrhythmia, maintained his innocence.
He criticized prosecutors for what he described an unwillingness to admit the “substantial disintegration” of their case against him.
Black said he’d have to have been “barking mad” to have removed 13 cartons of documents from his office in full view of security cameras he’d installed, as prosecutors allege, in lieu of spiriting out incriminating documents in his briefcase.
“I am a seeker of justice,” he told St. Eve. “I do ask for the avoidance of injustice which now lies entirely with your gift.”
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