Ex-media baron Black re-sentenced to prison

Former media mogul Conrad Black ordered back to jail for 13 months for fraud and obstruction of justice.

    Fallen media baron Conrad Black has been ordered back to a US prison for another 13 months for fraud and obstruction of justice while at the helm of his vast media empire.

    Black's lawyers made an impassioned plea to Judge Amy St Eve on friday for him to be sentenced to just the 29 months he has already served in jail, arguing that he had already suffered enough.

    But the 66-year-old media mogul, who had counted politicians and pop stars among his entourage, was more stoic as he defended his reputation and even quoted a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

    "I never ask for mercy. I seek no one's sympathy," Black told St Eve. "I do ask for the avoidance of injustice which now lies exclusively in your hands."

    Black was released on a $2m bond nearly a year ago after the US Supreme Court tossed out the "honest services" law that had formed the basis of his 2007 fraud conviction to which he was sentenced to 78 months.

    But after a series of appeals, Black was only able to succeed in getting two of the four counts he was convicted of thrown out.

    Fraud charges

    Black and his associates were originally accused of skimming off some $60m from his towering newspaper empire between 1999 and 2001.

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

    But that figure was reduced to $600,000 after the two fraud counts were thrown out in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

    St Eve on Friday sentenced Black to 42 months in jail, but he has already been imprisoned for 29 months and is therefore set to serve a further 13 months.

    He has also made restitution payments of $30m.

    The judge told Black she was impressed by the testimonials she had received from inmates and prison staff and was also taking into account his age.

    However, she said a significant sentence was necessary to serve as a warning to other corporate executives.

    "It is a very serious crime," she noted. "I still scratch my head as to why you engaged in this conduct."

    It was not immediately clear how three months credit for good behaviour would be factored into Black's remaining term.

    The judge ruled he would be released on bond for at least six weeks while the court determined which jail he would be sent to.

    Wife collapsed

    As the sentence was delivered Black showed little emotion, but his wife, Barbara, collapsed to the floor and was quietly helped from the courtroom.

    "He fails to acknowledge his central role in destroying Hollinger International through greed and lies, instead blaming the government and others for what he describes as an unjust persecution"

    US prosecutors' statement  

    Black's lawyers, urging leniency, argued: "This case has resulted in eight years of unmitigated agony for Mr. Black and his family."

    "Mr Black has lost the business that he built and deeply loved, suffered merciless attacks on his reputation, endured the need for significant financial outlays, (and) contended with a morass of litigation in the United States and Canada," they wrote in a pre-sentencing motion.

    They also noted his good behaviour in a Florida prison, saying he tutored an estimated 100 student inmates, gave a popular lecture on African-American history and was actively involved with Catholic religious services.

    But prosecutors dismissed those reports of good behaviour, citing two prison workers who said Black often demanded special treatment and lorded over his fellow inmates, even convincing some to cook and clean for him, iron his clothes and generally "act like servants".

    They had urged St Eve to send Black back to prison for the full 78-month sentence because of his "continued refusal to accept responsibility for his crimes".

    "He fails to acknowledge his central role in destroying Hollinger International through greed and lies, instead blaming the government and others for what he describes as an unjust persecution," they wrote.

    Black once ran the world's third largest media empire with such titles as Britain's Daily Telegraph and the Chicago Sun-Times.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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