Black back to prison, wife faints after hearing news
The wife of disgraced former media baron Conrad Black collapsed in a Chicago courtroom Friday, after learning that her husband must return to prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve ruled that Black will serve a reduced sentence of 42 months, less the 29 months he has already served in a Florida prison.
Depending on credit for good behaviour, Black is expected to serve a further eight to 13 months in prison.
Following St. Eve's ruling, medics attended to Black's wife, Barbara Amiel, who had collapsed in shock. She was later able to walk out of the courthouse, supported by her husband. Amiel suffers from an autoimmune condition, Black's lawyers said.
Black addressed St. Eve before the ruling, saying his family has suffered as a result of his convictions, and asking that he be freed.
"My concern is not for myself ... but for those dearest to me," he said.
Black's lawyers argued Friday that their 66-year-old has health problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol that could worsen if he were to return to prison.
Black quoted Mark Twain in his remarks, saying that "a lie gets half way around the world before the truth gets its trousers on."
But his pleas fell on deaf ears.
"I still scratch my head as to why you engaged in this conduct," St. Eve told the convicted felon, in delivering her ruling. "Good luck to you."
Outside the courthouse, prosecutor Julie Ruder Porter said the ruling sent a very strong message that "it will not be tolerated when executives steal from the companies that they have fiduciary duty to protect and when they steal from the shareholders."
Porter said that Black's comments in court did not include much about "contrition or acceptance of responsibility," and argued that he "has never accepted responsibility for his own conduct."
Black previously served 29 months after he was convicted of obstruction of justice and three counts of fraud during a high-profile trial that ended in 2007. At that time, he was sentenced to 78 months behind bars.
But he was released on a $2-million bond last summer after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the "honest services" law used in his trial put his convictions into question.
Three months later, an appeals court overturned two of the fraud convictions against Black. But the U.S. Supreme Court has since refused to hear an appeal on the remaining convictions, though Black vowed to keep fighting them.
He had been out on bail for nearly a year prior to his resentencing on Friday. Following the ruling, Black and his lawyers agreed that he will return to prison in six weeks.
Former U.S. prosecutor Jacob Frenkel said Friday's ruling could represent the end of a near decade-long saga in the American court system.
While Black has the option to appeal, Frenkel said the judge's ruling was "diligent" and would be difficult to overturn.
"I do think he's done," he told CTV News Channel.
Other legal issues
Alongside his pending court appearance in Chicago, Black has settled a series of libel-related lawsuits involving former associates at Hollinger International Inc. and former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Richard Breeden.
Black's lawyer, David Jenkins, said Thursday that "Hollinger International's successor company, Sun Times Media Group, attached a substantial value to the libel action in the settlement figure that will be paid to Mr. Black."
Jenkins said the settlement covers Black's libel suits against Breeden and a number of former Hollinger International officers and directors. It also covers an insurance action and an original lawsuit from 2004 against the company's former management.
Robert N. Kravitz, the attorney for the Chicago Newspaper Liquidation Corp. (formerly known as Hollinger International Inc. and Sun-Times Media Group Inc.) released a statement overnight, regarding the settlement with Black.
The statement said CNLC "disagrees with the assertion by Mr. Black's attorney that it attached substantial value to Mr. Black's defamation claims in the settlement."
It also said the settlement "does not include any payment to Mr. Black by the defendants in the defamation actions; those defamation actions will be dismissed and the defendants therein released from all claims."
With files from The Canadian Press