Judge sends Conrad Black back to prison

Media mogul and former Chicago Sun-Times owner Conrad Black appeared in a federal courtroom in Chicago Monday morning. (WLS-TV)

June 24, 2011 3:19:00 PM PDT
A federal judge re-sentenced former media mogul Conrad Black to 3 1/2 years in prison for defrauding investors.

Black, 66, will be given credit for the almost two years he has already served, according to prosecutors.

In 2007, Black was sentenced to 6 1/2 years for defrauding investors in Hollinger International Inc. Two years later, Black was free on appeals, during which two of fraud convictions were tossed out. Two charges remained- one for fraud and one for obstruction of justice.

U.S. Judge Amy St. Eve handed down both sentences.

Black addressed Judge St. Eve before he was sentenced to 42 months. "I never asked for mercy," Black said, "but I do ask for avoidance of injustice."

Black did not concede any guilt and said, "I accept a reasonable person could conclude I'm guilty of crimes, but the same person could also conclude I've been adequately punished."

"Corporate executives need to be sent a message that the company's money belongs to the share holders of the company not the corporate executives," Judge St. Eve said. "The shareholders put trust in you and you violated that trust."

Medics were called to attend to Black's wife, Barbara, who collapsed after hearing the sentence. She was able to walk out of the courthouse by herself.

Prosecutors argued the media mogul who once owned the Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Telegraph of London, The Jerusalem Post and other papers, was an elitist who thought himself above others and refused to acknowledge his role in destroying Hollinger International. They asked for the 78 month sentence.

"If there is some arrogance the government cares about, it's the arrogance of a corporate CEO who steals from the company and tries to cover it up by obstructing justice," Prosecutor Julie Porter said. "He's still convicted of fraud, he remains convicted of fraud."

The defense argued prosecutors were vindictive and Black helped others, including those who were in prison with him. Black taught inmates American history and economics, his attorneys argued.

"The impact you had on [inmates'] lives tells me something about you as an individual," Judge St. Eve said. "You are a different person, but as you stand before court today I am still scratching my head as to why you engaged in this conduct. Nobody is above the law."

Prosecutor Julie Porter called the portrayal of Black as a model prisoner "awfully thick." The government disputed the idea that Black was a model prisoner, saying he had inmates clean, cook and perform other chores for him like servants.

Black's case of appeals got a boost in June 2010 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the "honest services" laws. That led to the reversal of two of the original convictions.

But the appellate judges said the one fraud and obstruction of justice convictions were not affected by the Supreme Court's ruling. The fraud conviction, the judges concluded, involved Black and others taking $600,000 and had nothing to do with honest services: It was, they asserted, straightforward theft.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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