Conrad Black gets bail, review of case
Published Monday, July 19, 2010 6:30PM EDT
Conrad Black has been granted bail while a U.S. appeals court goes over his fraud convictions.
Black was convicted of three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice in July 2007. The following December, he was sentenced to serve 78 months in a federal prison.
Chicago judge Amy St. Eve will be responsible for setting the terms of Black's bail.
Black's lawyer, Miguel Estrada, said Monday afternoon that his client had not yet been released. Black has been serving time at a jail in Florida.
Earlier this month, Black applied for bail after the U.S. Supreme Court set aside his fraud convictions.
The top court had earlier ruled that the law used to convict Black was too vague.
CTV Legal Analyst Steven Skurka said Monday there is a good chance Black will win an eventual appeal on the fraud charges and never spend another day in jail.
"There's no surprise here when you really study this case, that indeed, Conrad Black has gotten bail because there's an excellent prospect of winning his appeal."
As for the obstruction conviction, that too could melt away if Black successfully appeals the fraud case.
The obstruction conviction stemmed from video footage which appeared to show Black removing boxes of documents at his downtown Toronto office. The court had ruled that the boxes constituted evidence in the fraud case.
"He has a real chance of winning that appeal too, because if the mail fraud convictions go, how can we be satisfied that the jury would have found that Conrad Black acted with corrupt intent when he removed those boxes?"
Skurka noted that Black's bail conditions likely will not allow him to leave the U.S. However, it is likely that Black will be out of prison very soon.
"I expect it's imminent. I expect that he'll be out in the next couple of days. When you get bail, the siren is on at a lawyer's office and you get your client out as soon as possible."
Shifting legal definitions
Eric Sussman, who was a prosecutor in the Black case, told CTV News Channel that he was surprised to hear of the bail ruling, considering an earlier Black appeal was a "resounding defeat."
However, after Black's appeal was defeated, he took the case to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear arguments.
"It certainly is surprising to see the real turn around," Sussman said, speaking from Boise, Idaho.
Since the appeal, the top court has narrowed the definition of the law which was used to convict Black.
Previously, the "honest services" law could be used to convict corporate executives who took bribes, kickbacks or had a conflict of interest in their business dealings, said Sussman.
It was the conflict of interest angle which was used to convict Black, but now that prosecution has been removed from the law, Sussman added.
Now, a successful "honest services" conviction hinges upon allegations of bribery and kickbacks, neither of which were involved in the Black case.
"He could be out of jail by the end of the week," said the prosecutor.
However, the fraud case is just one of the many legal hurdles Black has been forced to contend with recently.
Black also faces civil actions from creditors and investors from past business dealings.
Perhaps more daunting, however, was a ruling issued by the Internal Revenue Service last week over back taxes.
The IRS stated that Black owes US$70 million in back taxes, because he failed to pay any tax on $116 million worth of earnings between over a five-year period ending in 2003.
Initially, Black faced dozens of charges which centered on allegations that he and his associates siphoned funds away from the media company Hollinger International. Black had been the company's chief executive.