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Paul Waldie: Patrick Fitzgerald has a pretty long track record taking on terrorists, politicians and mobsters. He got that nickname from a Senator in Illinois. When the Senator was looking to recommend someone to take on the job of U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in 2001, he asked the head of the FBI "who is the toughest prosecutor in America". The reply: Patrick Fitzgerald. Apparently Fitzgerald is such a workaholic that he never even turned on the gas in his apartment in New York because he spent so much time at work. When he sold the place to move to Chicago, he told a prospective buyer that he could not verify if the oven worked because he had not turned on the gas.
Sasha Nagy writes: What can you tell us about the Judge Amy St. Eve. What type of courtroom does she run? How do you see her managing proceedings? Has she ever presided over similar cases?
Paul Waldie: Judge St. Eve runs a pretty tight ship. Court starts precisely on time, hearings are short and she moves things along very quickly.
She's one of the youngest federal judges in the U.S., appointed in 2002 at the age of 36. She has a reputation for being a hard worker and cleared away a huge backlog of roughly 200 cases after taking the job. By all accounts the trial should run very smoothly with her in charge.
Eye Sore from Dog Pound, Alberta writes: David Radler, Conrad Black's long-time right-hand man, will be the star witness for the prosecution. Radler was 'turned around' when he was offered a plea-bargain for a lighter sentence. Radler is said to have been diligent in record-keeping … surely, it is fair to assume that Radler, who was even closer to Citizen Black -- they were business partners going back decades, will deliver broadside after legal broadside during the trial from the prosecution side, and sink Black's defence. No?
Sinclair Stewart: You've hit upon the fulcrum, Eye Sore from Dog Pound, but I don't think it quite that cut and dried. Yes, Radler is known for his steel trap of a memory, and his pack-rat habits--he may still have office supply receipts dating back to the Sherbrooke Record, the paper that indoctrinated him and Conrad as media proprietors in the 1970s. Yet Radler is also what the legal community calls an "ugly witness." Let's not forget that he pled guilty, and that he profited from the same sort of alleged chicanery that prosecutors claim Black indulged in. Much will depend on the kind of credibility he can muster in front of the jury…Is he coming clean to save his conscience, and try to make amends for what he did? Or is he trying to weasel out of stiffer punishment by ratting on a friend? Let's not forget that Black's lawyer, Eddie Greenspan, is one of the best cross-examiners in the business. One thing is certain--it will be a veritable media circus when Radler takes the stand.
Paul Waldie: Another thing to keep in mind is that a couple of other players in this saga are co-operating with prosecutors. Ravelston Corp. Ltd., Conrad Black's former holding company, has pleaded guilty. And, Hollinger Inc., another company Lord Black once controlled, has signed a cooperation agreement with prosecutors. That may not mean much in terms of actual testimony during the trial, but they could be turning over key documents that will assist prosecution.
Douglas Bell from Toronto Canada writes: Does the fact that Black continues to be extremely litigious and appears to have resources (however diminished) cause you to pull your punches. Do the Globe's lawyers continue to be cautious in what they will and wont allow in print?
Paul Waldie: I'm not sure if Black is any more litigious than other people we cover. For my part, I can't say that I have felt any pressure from him or our lawyers to hold off.