Ex-media mogul Conrad Black goes back to jail

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 - 11:24

Chicago: Deposed media mogul Conrad Black traded tailored suits for prison garb for the second time on Tuesday after failing to fully clear himself of fraud and obstruction charges, US prison officials said.

"My only fear for the next seven months is the sadness of being separated from (my wife) Barbara, although I am also resigned to tedium," Black wrote in a farewell column in Canada`s National Post on Saturday.

The flamboyant newspaper baron and British Lord -- who once counted politicians and pop stars among his entourage -- reported to prison as a memoir professing his innocence and detailing his remarkable fall from grace hit bookshelves.

"A Matter of Principle" is described by publishers as a "scathing account of a flawed justice system" in which Black insists "I never ask for mercy, and seek no one`s sympathy”.

Black, 67, was forced out of the global media empire he`d built out of his Toronto offices in 2003 after shareholders accused him of engaging in a $500 million "corporate kleptocracy”.

US prosecutors charged Black and his associates with skimming off some USD 60 million from his global newspaper empire between 1999 and 2001.

They were ultimately convicted of stealing USD 6.1 million by awarding themselves tax-free bonuses from newspaper sell-offs without the approval of the board of the Hollinger holding company.

Black had served 29 months of a 78-month sentence when the US Supreme Court tossed out the "honest services" law that had formed the basis of his 2007 conviction.

He was released last year while his case was re-examined by the courts but only succeeded in shedding two of the four counts for which he was originally convicted.

That brought the total fraud down to USD 600,000, of which Black received less than half.

At his resentencing hearing in June, Black railed against prosecutors for refusing to concede after he evaded conviction on 13 of 17 counts and had two more overturned on appeal.

He castigated the "corporate governance zealots" who destroyed Hollinger -- which was forced into bankruptcy in the wake of the charges -- for what he said amounted to the "improper receipt of USD 285,000”.

Black`s lawyers made an impassioned plea to Judge Amy St Eve asking for him to be sentenced to just the 29 months he has already served in jail.

St Eve instead sentenced him to 42 months in prison for the remaining counts, telling Black, "I still scratch my head as to why you engaged in this conduct."

The bulk of Black`s latest prison sentence stems from an obstruction of justice charge after he removed 13 boxes from his Toronto office while under investigation by US securities regulators.

Black will get credit for time already served and it is up to the Bureau of Prisons to determine how at least three months of credit for good behaviour will be factored into his remaining term.

A spokesman for the bureau said officials had not yet computed a release date. Black is serving his time at a low-security federal correctional facility in Miami.

Black once ran the world`s third largest media empire with flagship titles that included Britain`s The Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times, Canada`s National Post, the Jerusalem Post and the Sydney Morning Herald.

He gave up his Canadian citizenship in order to become a British lord, but has been trying to have it reinstated so he can return to Canada.

Black said he plans to devote his prison time to editing his next book -- The Strategic History of the United States -- preparing himself for the "demolition of the spurious civil claims that remain in Canada" and a strict weight loss and fitness regime.

"I continue to believe, as I quoted Henry D Thoreau in this space when I first reported to prison in March, 2008, that `Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison’," Black wrote in his farewell column.

"I don`t have much choice, as I would never consider fleeing, but in that one sense, I belong there and am happy to return."

Bureau Report



First Published: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 - 11:24

comments powered by Disqus