Conrad Black sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Monday, December 10, 2007 11:09PM EST
A Chicago judge sentenced disgraced media tycoon Conrad Black to six and one-half years -- or 78 months -- in prison and handed him a $125,000 fine, which must be paid within 90 days.
Black made his way through a throng of reporters outside the courthouse, offering little comment other than to say an appeal "would speak for itself."
He was told to report to the Florida penitentiary at Eglin Air Force Base before March 3, although it was soon discovered that Eglin has been closed for a year. The government is now asking that Black serve his time at another low-security prison in the same state: Federal Correctional Institution Coleman.
Judge Amy St. Eve told Black she felt he was not a "future threat" because of everything he had lost.
Black spoke for only a few minutes in court, despite reports that he had prepared a 5,000-word statement.
He complimented the judge on her handling of the trial, and said he regretted the loss suffered by Hollinger International shareholders.
Black was also ordered to forfeit $6.1 million for fraud and obstruction of justice -- with no right to restitution.
"You have committed a serious offence, a very serious offence," St. Eve told Black.
She had earlier said a term between 7 to 8 years would be appropriate.
Black had faced up to 20 years in prison for his conviction on three charges of fraud and one of obstruction of justice.
Black was acquitted in July on nine other charges.
'He's going to prevail'
His Chicago-based lawyer Ed Genson had little to say outside the courthouse, but told CTV News his client received a fair trial.
"Conrad has good appeal lawyers and hopefully he's going to prevail on appeal," he said. "I'm mainly impressed with Judge Amy St. Eve. I thought she gave us a fair trial and a fair hearing."
One of those appeal lawyers, Andrew Frey, said he would fight hard to appeal the sentence and keep Black out of jail.
"For a 63-year-old man, six-and-a-half years is a long time, especially for a man who doesn't think he committed a crime," he said.
Eddie Greenspan, Black's Canadian lawyer during the trial, echoed that sentiment, but said the length of sentence could have been far worse.
"I'm not pleased today that he got a single day in jail," he said. "But given what we came in to with this trial, we were facing allegations that included $90 million in fraud and we were facing what might have been tantamount to life in jail. It's a very nerve-wracking beginning of a trial for someone charged with a non-violent offence. But that's America today."
Black entered the courtroom with his wife Barbara Amiel-Black and daughter Alana Black.
In a blow to Black's defence team, St. Eve quickly denied a request by the defence to delay the trial or strike victim impact statements, saying she would proceed with sentencing using 2000 guidelines.
That also hurt the prosecution, which had been pushing for sentencing under harsher 2007 guidelines. Sentencing under the 2007 guidelines could have doubled Black's jail term.
St. Eve then dismissed a request from the prosecution to consider the full amount of the alleged fraud -- $32 million instead of the $6.1 million that was estimated in a pre-sentencing report.
Lawyer asks judge to consider Black's age
Black's chief sentencing counsel, Jeffrey Steinback, described Black as a respected historian and loving father who firmly believes he has done nothing wrong.
He called him a hard-working entrepreneur who built the empire he has now been convicted of stealing from.
"No bank robber has ever personally built the bank that he robbed," Steinback said.
"Nobody can seriously contend that Conrad would do anything to cause that company distress."
He had also said it would not be reasonable to give Black a lengthy sentence, given the fact he is 63 years old, arguing a long jail term would not be appropriate "within the circumstances of this man's life."
The prosecution, however, claimed Black had shown no remorse or regret, that he is not sorry for what he has done and is even disdainful of the court and the convictions against him.
He had maintained his innocence throughout the trial and has been critical of the U.S. justice system, recently telling a British interviewer a jail sentence "will only compound the injustice of this entire vendetta."
U.S. federal prosecutors were seeking a prison term approaching 20 years. But Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Chicago area, said he was still happy with the sentence.
"Mr. Black is going to jail as a convicted felon, convicted of fraud. So we proved the case," Fitzgerald told reporters. "The bottom line is Mr. Black will do 6 1/2 years in jail. That's a serious amount of time."
Black was the first of four defendants to be sentenced Monday. His former colleagues, Peter Atkinson, Jack Boultbee and Mark Kipnis, also received prison terms:
- Boultbee, of Victoria, B.C., was considered Black's key financial advisor. He was handed 27 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He also must pay $152,000 in restitution.
- Atkinson, of Oakville, Ont., was the chief legal counsel for Hollinger. He was sentenced to 24 months in prison and given a $3,000 fine.
- U.S. lawyer Mark Kipnis must serve six months in jail and will be required to perform community service.
With a report by CTV's Lisa LaFlamme