Conrad Black recalls jailhouse life ahead of his return
Published Thursday, September 1, 2011 8:56PM EDT
Former media baron Conrad Black said the worst part about his first trip to prison was the anticipation of the unknown and the concern that he might encounter violence behind bars.
Black, who is preparing to return to prison to serve out another 13 months stemming from his 2007 convictions for fraud and obstruction of justice, met with CTV's National Affairs Correspondent Lisa LaFlamme for an exclusive sit-down television interview about his new book, A Matter of Principle, that will be in stores in mid-September.
In the course of the three-hour conversation, Black turned his memory back to his first jailhouse experience.
"Coming up to actually going to prison was difficult because the imagination is quite torture, and I didn't really know what to expect," Black said during the interview at the five-star New York hotel where he has been living for about a year.
"I was advised that there wasn't much violence there, but you don't know."
Black, also known as Inmate #18330424, is set to return to prison by Sept. 6. He told LaFlamme he believes he will be released in about eight months, and will not have to serve out the fill 13 months remaining on his sentence.
Black said he quickly became comfortable in his new environment during his first stint in prison. He was helped in part, he said, by a Mafia don who introduced himself on Black's first night behind bars and said he would be looked out for.
"He assured me that no one would bother me. He said, 'If you catch a cold we'll find out who you got it from,'" Black said.
Despite his riches -- Black claims he still has $80 million to his name -- he said he was subjected to the same treatment as the other prisoners, such as strip searches and being assigned to scrub the showers.
He also shared a cell with two other inmates and slept on a bottom bunk.
Though he wouldn't go so far as to say his treatment was demoralizing, Black said there was a concerted effort to make the prisoners aware of their lowly status within the facility.
"It's all part of a general campaign to demean and humiliate the people in their charge so it only succeeds if you allow it to," he said.
At one time Black's media empire included the Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Telegraph of London, the National Post and a handful of small papers across the U.S. and Canada.
Black's legal battles have lasted the better part of a decade.
He was originally sentenced by Judge Amy St. Eve to 78 months behind bars for obstruction of justice and three counts of fraud in a high profile trial that ended in 2007.
Black was released last summer on a $2-million bond after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the "honest services" law used in his trial put his convictions into question.
He was free for close to a year before his resentencing in June when St. Eve ruled Black had to return to prison to serve 42 months, less the 29 months he had already served, for a total of 13 months.
Black must begin serving out that sentence by Sept. 6.
In one of the most emotional moments of Black's court saga, the former media baron's wife Barbara Amiel collapsed when St. Eve ruled in June that Black had more time to serve.
Amiel suffers from an autoimmune condition and Black has long maintained he wasn't concerned for his own wellbeing, but rather that of his wife if he were to return to prison.
Black told LaFlamme his goal is to eventually return to Canada, once his sentence is complete.
An excerpt from the interview will air Thursday on the CTV National News with Lloyd Robertson at 11 p.m.