Conrad Black Loses Bid to Void Hollinger Fraud Conviction

Conrad Black, the former Hollinger International Inc. chairman convicted in 2007 on fraud and obstruction charges, lost a bid to void that verdict on grounds he was blocked from hiring the defense lawyers he wanted.

Black argued that the seizure by federal agents in 2005 of about $9 million in proceeds from the sale of a Manhattan apartment left him unable to retain criminal defense lawyers Brendan V. Sullivan and Gregory Craig, then both with Washington’s Williams & Connolly LLP. Craig is a former White House Counsel under President Barack Obama. Sullivan is known for defending U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal.

U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve, who presided over the trial, today rejected Black’s argument and faulted him for not pressing it earlier.

“I never thought there was much chance that Judge St. Eve would rule in our favor,” Black, 68, said today in a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg News. “The entire prosecution was a fraud and a disgrace and any serious examination of it reveals that.”

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for acting Chicago U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro, declined to comment on St. Eve’s ruling or on Black’s comments.

Hollinger Chairman

Black led Hollinger as its chairman and chief executive officer from October 1995 to November 2003, during which time it was the world’s third-biggest publisher of English language newspapers including the Chicago Sun-Times, the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph and Canada’s National Post.

He and four other Hollinger executives were accused of skimming money from the Chicago-based company as it sold more than $3 billion in assets between 1998 and 2001.

Black’s defense at trial was led by Edward Genson of Chicago and Edward Greenspan of Toronto.

Black was convicted of three counts of mail fraud and one count of obstructing a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe.

He successfully appealed two of the fraud convictions and won a three-year reduction of his original 6 1/2-year sentence. He was released from federal custody last year and is now living in Toronto.

‘Hotly Litigated’

“This case was hotly litigated from the beginning,” St. Eve said in her 16-page decision. “Indeed, the docket contains over 800 entries before the jury returned its verdict. During the course of pretrial proceedings and the trial, petitioner never informed the court that he was not represented by his counsel of choice.”

She also rejected two related claims for relief and Black’s request for an evidentiary hearing.

“I have left the country,” Black said today in his e-mailed message. “The vagaries of the American justice system are not my problem now.”

Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who led the office during the Black case, is now in private practice with New York-based Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, where Craig is also now a partner.

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

The case is Black v. U.S., 12-cv-4306, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

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