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June 24, 2011

Any predictions for Conrad Black's federal resentencing?

As effectively detailed in this National Post piece, the high-profile trial, sentencing, appeals and now resentencing comes to an end today in a federal district court in Chicago. Here is the backstory:

Today, Lord Black, 66, returns to Judge St. Eve’s courtroom in the Everett McKinley Dirksen Federal courthouse, where the trial judge will mete out a new punishment for his diminished slate of convictions. It is widely expected to be a more lenient sentence than the 78-month prison term in a U.S. federal minimum-security penitentiary in Florida, where she dispatched him in March, 2008.

Still, it won’t be the complete vindication he sought — and promised — since his legal ordeal began six years ago. Instead, in the wake of a partial victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the former international press baron now faces the stark prospect of returning to prison for a shorter stint, or deportation from the United States.

“This was going to be the capstone for this U.S. Attorney’s office efforts to fight white-collar crime. And instead of the big bang, this is a case that is hanging on by its fingernails on the fraud charges,” observed Hugh Totten, a Chicago-based criminal lawyer who monitored the case closely.

Given that U.S. prosecutors originally sought a jail term of between 24 to 35 years after his 2007 convictions on three counts of mail and wire fraud and one count of obstruction of justice – he wound up with 6½ years – it would seem reasonable to anticipate the federal judge won’t likely force Lord Black back to the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex to complete his term, as the U.S. government has strenuously urged.

Rather, some legal experts expect Judge St. Eve, who presided over the four-month criminal trial, to follow the guidelines set out in a pre-sentencing report by the U.S. Probation department, which recommends a term of between 33 to 41 months. If that happens, Lord Black can claim victory, since his lawyers have argued for time served based on the 29 months he’s already served plus a three-month credit for good behaviour.

“No way he’s going back to jail with that PSR [pre-sentencing report],” predicts Jacob S. Frenkel, a criminal lawyer and former U.S. attorney based in Potomac, MD. “There will be a lot of posturing and bluster, which will have no effect on the judge. The bottom line is that she has made up her mind and the hearing is to go through the motions to give him credit for time served and wrap this thing up as far as the court is concerned.”

Others, such as Chicago lawyer Andrew Stoltmann, disagree: “Conrad Black is heading back to serve the entirety of the rest of his term,” he wrote in an e-mail. “While U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve has some discretion in overturning the ruling, Black has many factors working against him.”

Most expect there will be passionate arguments before the judge, but few surprises. Sentencing hearings are generally brief because most of the reasonings have been laid out in court submissions filed by both sides weeks ago.

If Judge St. Eve decides to release Lord Black from prison for time served, as his lawyers have requested, she could still attach any number of conditions, including probation time and fines. In that case, the Canadian-born media baron who famously relinquished his Canadian citizenship to become a British peer in 2001, would be arrested by the U.S. Immigration department and become subject to deportation proceeding....

In court filings, U.S. prosecutors have practically begged Judge St. Eve to send Lord Black, who once controlled the world’s third largest English-language newspaper empire including the National Post, back to Coleman to complete his 78-month sentence noting his defiance and lack of remorse.

Even after acknowledging the former businessman was a model prisoner, prosecutors still attempted to portray him as a haughty inmate unworthy of release by filing contradictory testimony from Coleman prison staff alleging Lord Black “demanded special treatment” and was a lax tutor, even though the same employees described him as “not intimidating or condescending” and “always polite and respectful” in prison progress reports and to the probation officer.

The unflattering depictions of Lord Black outlined in the sworn testimony from prison staff “are not allegations Black will want hanging over his head going into the re-sentencing,” said Mr. Frenkel, because the Supreme Court noted that Lord Black’s behaviour while in prison and on bail could be factored into re-sentencing.... To support his case for a full release, there are 18 letters from former prison inmates and staff espousing Lord Black’s positive contributions to prison life.

The Montreal-born businessman, who was released on bond last July pending his appeals, and three other Hollinger International Inc. executives were convicted in 2007 of misappropriating US$6.1-million in the form of non-competition payments. Lord Black was also found guilty of obstruction of justice for removing 13 boxes from his Toronto head office during the U.S. government’s investigation in 2005.

UPDATE As reported in this new post, Black ended up getting 42 months of imprisonment at his resentencing, and thus he now has 13 months left to serve in the federal pen.

June 24, 2011 at 10:00 AM | Permalink


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I am a former prosecutor, now a criminal defense attorney... I have recently taken to reading these blogs as my old source of legal information has turned far to commercial for my tastes.

There is no way I see him going back to prison with this result; especially in in light of the pre-sentencing report. If he does go back I believe he will only be looking at an actual prison term of 3 to 4 months based on the time he has already served; I am not sure the judge will go for the good time credit, but if the judge does he may actually walk on time served.


Joseph C. Patituce
Patituce & Associates, LLC
26777 Lorain Road, Suite 503
North Olmsted, Ohio 44070

Posted by: joe patituce | Jun 24, 2011 11:55:55 AM

My prediction is time served.

Posted by: Robert | Jun 24, 2011 12:36:51 PM

And then the next flight to a country that will take him. He would be pretty silly to fight deportation under the circumstances.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jun 24, 2011 1:10:19 PM

lol tell me about it soronel...i'd be looking for the next plane, bus, taxi,, or walk to the nearest border!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 24, 2011 2:31:36 PM

Resentencing is 42 months. Less 29 months' already served means 13 more months. With good time, he'll probably do a little more than ten.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 24, 2011 2:45:14 PM

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