Maybe it's chivalry, legal tactics or a bit of both, but Conrad Black is working diligently to keep his wife out of his coming criminal trial in Chicago.
Wednesday, Lord Black filed a motion seeking to prevent prosecutors from introducing as evidence thousands of e-mail exchanges between his wife, Barbara Amiel-Black, and himself, arguing that “marital communications” are off limits during trials.
According to the filing, prosecutors handed Lord Black's lawyers a data disk on Monday that contained 11,000 files, consisting mainly of e-mail exchanges between the Blacks. “Mr. Black respectfully asserts his marital privilege and moves for the entry of an order barring the government from introducing any communications between the Blacks in any form, including e-mails,” the filing argues. “The law does not take kindly to in-court revelation of communication between spouses.”
It's not clear when the e-mails were sent.
This is the second time in recent weeks that Lord Black has complained about attempts by prosecutors to drag Lady Black into the criminal case, which involves allegations that Lord Black and other former executives of Hollinger International Inc. took more than $80-million (U.S.) from the Chicago-based company. Lord Black and the others have pleaded not guilty, and none of the allegations have been proved. Lady Black, a former Hollinger director, has not been charged.
In January, Lord Black tried to exclude references to Lady Black's alleged shopping trips, which included buying $2,400 handbags and spending $2,700 on opera tickets. In a court filing, he argued the alleged expenses were not relevant to the case.
“For whatever reasons, Barbara Amiel-Black has sometimes been a lightning rod of controversy,” Lord Black argued in the filing. “Injecting Mrs. Black into the trial would be unnecessary to any real issue in this case, and would result in a circus-like sideshow.”
So far, prosecutors and the judge overseeing the case have not given much ground. Prosecutors claim Lady Black's alleged spending sprees are relevant to the case because they back up allegations that Lord Black used Hollinger as a private bank.
And, they allege they have e-mails to Lord Black from Lady Black asking him to pay for the expenses.
“Whether or not Mrs. Black has been ‘a lightning rod of controversy' in other fora ... has little to do with the government's proposed limited evidence, which focuses on Mr. Black, and his use of Hollinger International's money for personal purposes,” prosecutors argued in court filings.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve recently ruled that the allegations are relevant. Lord Black's arguments “that the evidence is unduly prejudicial because Mrs. Black ‘has sometimes been a lightning rod of controversy' is unpersuasive,” the judge said in a ruling in February.
The Chicago court isn't the only legal forum Lord Black has used to defend his wife. Last month, he filed a libel suit in Ontario against British author Thomas Bower and his book, Conrad Black and Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge. In the suit, Lord Black cited numerous alleged “attacks on [his] wife” and argued that Lady Black was unjustly portrayed as an “altogether repulsive personality.”
The Blacks have been a close and powerful couple since marrying in 1992 (her fourth marriage, his second). Lady Black was already a prominent journalist at the time of their wedding, and, in addition to serving on Hollinger International's board with Lord Black, she was vice-president, editorial, at the company. Mr. Bower's book, which was published in Canada, Britain and the United States last fall, has received mixed reviews and some complaints by critics about his portrayal of Lady Black.
In an article in London's Sunday Telegraph last October, Lord Black wrote that Mr. Bower's “key-hole, smut-mongering side-piece portrayal of my wife as a man-eating sex maniac prior to her marriage to me, is disgusting.
“Before the beginning of the 15 years of completely happy, serene, marital fidelity we have enjoyed, I knew her socially for 15 years as a glamorous, but never unseemly woman.”