Monday, December 10, 2007

Conrad Black gets sentenced-has class

Was justice served? 6.5 years for entrepreneurship- after he left or was forced to leave the media empire and stock declined to little- a phyric victory for the public at best in a lose-lose situation. At least he showed some class

"We have the verdict we have and we can't retry the case," Black told St. Eves in a brief statement before the sentencing.

"I have never once uttered one disrespectful word about this court, your honour, the jurors or the process."

He thanked the judge for her openmindedness, considering that he came in with an "almost universal presumption of guilt."

The former newspaper executive also apologized to shareholders of the defunct Hollinger International newspaper group, the company he was convicted of defrauding. It once controlled a chain of big-city Canadian dailies, the National Post, the London Telegraph and the Jerusalem Post, as well as the Chicago Sun-Times and hundreds of smaller publications.

The Black trial was one of the last high-profile fraud cases in which U.S. prosecutors, stocks regulators and others cracked down on white collar crime in the wake of the Enron Corp. scandal that wiped out billions of dollars of stock value about five years ago.

Besides tough new U.S. rules that required more detailed corporate disclosure to shareholders, U.S. prosecutors also won jail sentences against Martha Stewart, former WorldComm CEO Bernie Ebbers, Adelphia cable group CEO John Rigas and executives of Enron and numerous other companies accused of corporate fraud and wrongdoing.

Earlier Monday, Black had walked into the courthouse confident and smiling in the morning, accompanied by his wife Barbara Amiel Black and daughter Alana Black.

After the sentencing he was still smiling, offering only "No comment," as he left the courtroom with his family and a tight-lipped "the fact that we're appealing speaks for itself," as he and his family edged through a knot of reporters and into the familiar Cadillac Escalade to be whisked away.

Defence lawyer Eddie Greenspan said he was not happy with the verdit and "I'm not pleased today that he got a single day in jail."

"But, given what we came into in this trial, we were facing allegations that included $90 million in (anti-racketeering law) RICO-related fraud and we were facing what might have been tantamount to life in jail," Greenspan said.

"It was a very nervewracking beginning of the trial for somebody who was charged with a non-violent offence. But that's America today. At the the end of the day to end up where we ended up is a hell of a lot better than where we started, but it's not over."

"Conrad has good appeal lawyers and hopefully he's going to prevail on appeal," Black's U.S.-based defence lawyer Edward Genson said as he left court.

"I'm daily impressed by jude St. Eve and I thought she gave us a fair trial and a fair hearing."

Earlier in the day, St. Eve made several rulings that were good news for Black and his team, though denied Black's request to delay the sentencing or strike victim impact statements.

First, she said she would use 2000 sentencing guidelines to determine the sentence, a blow to prosecutors, who were pushing for a sentence under the 2007 guidelines - which could have doubled Black's time in jail.

She also dismissed the prosecutor's request to consider the full amount of the alleged fraud - $32 million - instead of the $6.1 million estimated by a pre-sentencing report.

As well, she added, Black's former partner David Radler was offered a plea bargain to testify against Black his deal under the 2000 guidelines, and he is "at least equally culpable as Mr. Black."

Radler has agreed to go to jail for 29 months and pay a fine and will be officially sentenced next week.

Black's co-defendant Peter Atkinson, chief legal counsel for Hollinger, was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $3,000 fine.

St. Eve dismissed a government's request to consider Black the ringleader of the fraud scheme, saying that "the evidence at trial demonstrates his co-defendant Radler was calling just as many shots in directing, in many instances, where the money was going."

She also noted it was Radler who was in charge of the running media company Hollinger's U.S. operations and ordering the money.

But, she said, she wouldn't consider Black a minor player either, saying that request hardly passed "the straight-face test."

Jeffrey Steinback, Black's chief sentencing counsel, told court that Black is a respected historian and loving father fighting for his soul, whose lack of remorse stems from his heartfelt belief that he did nothing wrong.

Black, he said, is not the bank robber prosecutors claimed but an entrepreneur, writer and devoted husband.

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