Conrad Black starts sentence at Florida prison
Conrad Black travelled from his lavish Palm Beach mansion Monday to a Florida prison, where he will serve out his six-and-a-half year fraud sentence with white-collar criminals and drug dealers.
Black made the four-hour trip with his wife Barbara Amiel, sitting in the back of a grey SUV with tinted windows while an unidentified driver took the wheel.
The disgraced media tycoon will now be known as inmate 18330-424 at the Coleman Federal Correction Complex near Orlando. The prison has four facilities, ranging from the low-security detention centre where Black will be housed to a high-security penitentiary.
On Monday, Black was fingerprinted, photographed and strip-searched before being introduced to his cell, which he will share with a roommate.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, Black's potential cellmates at the Coleman low-security prison include:
- Liberio Bellomo, a mobster who U.S. authorities say authorized the murder of a rival gangster;
- George Martorano, the former kingpin of a multi-million dollar drug ring, who is serving a life sentence;
- James A. Cohen, a convicted pedophile; and,
- A fellow Canadian fraudster, Stephen Clark, who netted $10 million in credit card fraud.
Black will be assigned basic jobs and will be paid between 12 and 40 cents an hour. At the peak of his career as head of newspaper empire Hollinger International, it is estimated Black made anywhere between $12,000 and $40,000 an hour.
"In the beginning it's really going to be yard work, kitchen duty, cleaning duty -- not exactly what he had anticipated," CTV's Lisa LaFlamme told Canada AM.
In an email to The Globe and Mail, Black said he expected to spend time behind bars writing, praying and even teaching other inmates. But prison officials told LaFlamme that Black will start out with the same jobs as everyone else.
A relative of one of the prison's inmates said the same thing.
"Money doesn't matter in there," the relative said. "It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor; they treat you the same."
The strict regime for Black and the other 2,500 prisoners will include:
- Getting out of bed at 6 a.m. daily;
- 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. work hours; and,
- A head count up to seven times a day.
CTV's legal analyst Steven Skurka, author of the new Black book "Tilted," said Black is likely to face the challenge head-on, as he has with other difficulties in his life.
"Number one, he has a loving family and the support of friends. Number two, he doesn't want to vindicate his enemies, and I think that's going to drive him," Skurka told Canada AM.
Peter C. Newman, a Black biographer told CTV News, said that he expected Black to survive his stay in prison but added that "he won't be the same person" when he gets out.
There was no lavish party on Sunday at the Black mansion in West Palm Beach, Florida - a property he acquired while still the head of Hollinger, once the world's third-largest newspaper empire. Instead, it was a quiet time for Black and Amiel.
Coleman prison has a strict visitor policy that Amiel will need to abide by including:
- She can visit Black up to nine times a month if she visits on weekdays, but only three times a month if she comes on weekends;
- She can only kiss or hug Black at the start of the visit and before she leaves; and,
- She must follow a strict dress code and not dress "provocatively."
Federal prisons in the U.S. do not allow conjugal visits.
The 63-year-old Black was found guilty last summer on four of 13 charges stemming from his activities at Hollinger International, the arm of his empire that actually operated his vast stable of newspapers. The convictions were for fraud and obstruction of justice.
The trial showed Black and three others had siphoned money from Hollinger by unlawfully using "non-compete" agreements -- monies paid to avoid having someone start a competing publication after having sold a newspaper in a given market -- to line their own pockets.
Although he tried to stay out of prison pending his appeal, Black was unsuccessful.
Two other men, Peter Atkinson and Jack Boultbee, were allowed to remain free on bail before their appeals are heard.
The two former Hollinger International executives were convicted on fraud-related charges but not obstruction of justice. Boultbee was sentenced to 27 months and Atkinson to 24 months.
Black's appeal process is ongoing. The trial judge's comments on the remaining fraud counts, he has said, show that the government case is a "grotesque charade."
The appeal process could take anywhere from four months to a year to play out, Morton said.
David Radler, Black's former business partner, preceded Black to prison, having surrendered himself last Monday.
Because Black gave up his Canadian citizenship to serve in the British House of Lords, the British subject cannot apply to transfer to a Canadian prison.
Boultbee and Atkinson are both Canadian citizens.
With a report by CTV's Lisa LaFlamme in Coleman, Fla.