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A picture of the beneficent Lord Black

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Conrad Black is a deeply spiritual man who loved his parents, cared for his children, helped save Canada and is gracious, kind, sincere, generous, modest and humble toward everyone he meets.

That's the portrait his lawyers offered to a Chicago court yesterday in a 53-page document that argued the former media baron played a minor role in the fraud at Hollinger International Inc. and has suffered so much already he should receive, at most, a two-year jail sentence.

Lord Black, 63, "is a person with a deep reservoir of kindness and generosity consistently exhibited to people of all stations in life and an individual who has made significant contributions to society," the filing says. "He has watched his family suffer untold agonies at the hands of the savage and reckless press."

His lawyers have gathered roughly 100 letters of support from a variety of people including former prime minister Brian Mulroney, rock star Elton John, broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, Nobel Prize winner John Polanyi as well as business tycoons Paul Desmarais, Gerald Schwartz and his wife Heather Reisman.

Several current and former journalists have also sent letters including Maclean's columnist Mark Steyn, former Globe and Mail editor-in-chief William Thorsell, CBC reporter Brian Stewart, U.S. commentator William F. Buckley and publisher Mortimer Zuckerman.

Lord Black's legacy "has touched many individual lives and has made positive contributions on a global scale," the filing says. It adds that Lord Black's real persona was a far cry from the fictional portrayal of him in the media as a "money hungry elitist whose highest ambition was social advancement in the upper echelons of New York and London society."

The filing comes as Lord Black and three other former Hollinger executives prepare for a sentencing hearing on Dec. 10 in Chicago. All four were convicted of fraud in July for the diversion of millions of dollars from the Chicago-based newspaper company. Lord Black was also convicted of obstruction of justice. They all plan to appeal.

In court filings, prosecutors have described Lord Black as a liar who lined his own pockets at the expense of Hollinger shareholders and orchestrated a $32-million (U.S.) fraud. They have been pushing for a sentence of about 20 years (Lord Black's offences carry a 35-year maximum).

A presentencing report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office, which has been submitted to the judge, put the fraud at $6.1-million and recommended a far lighter sentence. The report has not been made public, but other court filings suggest it recommended a sentence of less than 10 years.

In their filing, Lord Black's lawyers challenged some of the report's conclusions. They argued the fraud amounted to less than $3-million and that Lord Black was a minor player in the scam. The amount of the fraud and Lord Black's role in it are important factors in sentencing, legal experts have said.

The filing said Lord Black's sentence should be similar to the penalty imposed on his former right-hand man, David Radler. Mr. Radler pleaded guilty to one fraud count in 2005 and testified against the others. In return he is expected to receive a 29-month jail sentence.

Lord Black's lawyers pointed to other mistakes in the presentencing report, including a quote from his daughter, Alana. The report quoted Ms. Black as describing her father as an "atypical dad." "In fact," Lord Black's lawyer says, "she described him as a 'typical dad.' "

Most of the remainder of the filing dwelt on Lord Black's personal strengths and the suffering he has already endured.

He has spent more than $30-million on legal fees, lost a $250-million fortune and watched as his two sons cope with severe health problems "that bear connection to the tribulations endured by the entire family."

"Nothing can describe much less rectify the immeasurable suffering attendant upon those realities," the filing says.

In his letter, Mr. Schwartz said Lord Black's "suffering, his financial loss and his humiliation are already recognized by everyone in the business and financial communities as a steep price already paid."

The document is replete with examples of Lord Black's kindness to others and it said that while Lord Black spoke in an educated and "somewhat elaborate manner" he had a common touch. He sent "care packages" to sick friends, restored faith to a woman who had turned from God and worked diligently on behalf of refugees.

At Hollinger, he made employees feel like family and offered untold support to his servants, including helping one housekeeper learn English and paying therapy costs for another one suffering depression.

"Even to people [Lord Black] did not know but who reached out to him for assistance, Mr. Black was uniformly gracious," the filing says. That included musicians, aspiring journalists, students and bankers.

The lawyers go on at length about Lord Black's devotion to Catholicism, noting that his house in Toronto has a "spare and elegant" chapel with an anteroom containing tomes on Judaism for his wife, Barbara Amiel, who is Jewish. They said Lord Black attended mass every Saturday during the four-month trial "before taking long, contemplative walks along the Chicago lake front."

There are also extensive quotes from Lord Black's autobiography, A Life in Progress, including sections about his close relationship with his father and the last conversation he had with his mother, who died in 1973 of liver cancer.

In his letter of support, journalist William Johnson credits "Conrad's vision and advocacy on [Quebec separation] with saving Canada from sinking into the devastating political and economic crisis that would have resulted from the separatists and their position emerging victorious in the 1995 period," the filing says.

But the document is devoted largely to comments from Lord Black's family.

Lady Black said her husband "always sees the best in events and people" and added that she could not have gotten through "a week of the sort of assault we have now taken for the past four years without the strength and love [Conrad] has given me."

His daughter wrote about a childhood "filled with reading, games, biking, badminton and diversions which helped an eight-year old tolerate 75 minute Latin masses."

Even his ex-wife, Joanna, "remains a staunch supporter," the filing says. His son, Jonathan, discussed the "realities he has had to endure because of the trial" and his sister-in-law, June, wrote about how Lord Black immersed himself in the "joyous problems of young people - choices of schools and jobs as well as bourgeoning relationships" always offering assistance and advice.

"He is a husband, father, friend, patron, benefactor and mentor," the filing says. "A just sentence will take account of all of those aspects of Conrad Black's character as well as the fact that for such a man, to face the loss of all he has worked for and the prospect of imprisonment has already been enormous punishment."

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IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Conrad Black's supporters

According to the filing, 'it is in the dozens upon dozens of letters submitted for Mr. Black from individuals inhabiting an astonishing breadth of stations in life, however, that the most valuable insights into his personality can be located.' Some of those comments:

"He has always been courteous and helpful - not just to friends and acquaintances of high rank but to everyone I have seen him come in contact with in the course of daily life." - Gerald Schwartz, CEO of Onyx Corp.

Conrad "always sees the best in events and people. For Conrad, the glass is always half full no matter what life dishes out for him." - Barbara Amiel Black, Lord Black's wife

Conrad Black "is gender blind in creating relationships and essentially motivated to be with and around people who he finds intellectually stimulating ... "

- Heather Reisman, CEO of the Indigo Books chain, who is described in the filing as a bookstore proprietor

Conrad's everyday life was marked by "many acts of unheralded charity, altruism and kindness." - George Jonas, journalist and author and one of Lady Black's ex-husbands

"My father sees the world through rose colored glasses and fresh eyes - no matter what problems or issues arise, he finds something positive to focus on. He sees and believes in the good in everything and everyone."

- Alana Black, Lord Black's daughter

After visiting Lourdes in Southern France, Lord Black was "deeply affected by the spiritual and physical comfort that faith brought so many of the sick and severely disabled." - Brian Stewart, CBC journalist described as Lord Black's oldest and dearest friend

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OTHERS WHO WROTE LETTERS OF SUPPORT:

Rush Limbaugh, William F. Buckley, Jr., Margaret MacMillan, Mark Steyn, Baron Peter Carrington, Paul Desmarais, Elton John, David Frum, Lady Victoria Getty, Sir Martin Gilbert, Lady Annabel Goldsmith, Boris Johnson, Brian Mulroney, Paul Johnson, Sir John Keegan, William Hague, Norman Podhoretz, John Polanyi,

Lord Charles Powell, Lord William Rees-Mogg, Andrew Roberts, William Thorsell, Lord Maurice Saatchi, Lord Norman Tebbit,

Taki Theodoracopulos, Patrick Watson, Mortimer Zuckerman

THE MEASURE OF A MAN

Lawyers for Conrad Black have gathered stories attesting to the former press baron's character from about 100 letters of support. They make up a large part of a presentencing submission to the court, released yesterday and portray him as a kind and generous man who was made significant contributions to literature, scholarship, politics, business, and to the welfare of his fellow man.

CHARLES MOORE related that Conrad was never in too much of a hurry to listen to ones problems and in some instances discovered personal difficulties suffered by his staff even without being told. Conrad discovered, for example, that Mr. Moore's daughter had a serious health problem, sent her a present and asked for a progress report. {bull} LEON HARRIS reflected on the consistent kindness Conrad exhibited when his Mr. Harris' brother, Lewis, who had worked for Conrad as the editor of the Sherbrooke record, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Conrad not only stayed in constant touch with Lewis during his illness, but after Lewis' death contributed to a journalism scholarship the family set up in Lewis' name. {bull} DANIEL COLSON's letter told of a time in which Conrad ensured that a non staff editorial contributor who became terminally ill was hired as a full time employee so that he would have health benefits.

{bull} EMMETT TYRRELL related that Conrad kept older writers on staff to protect their livelihood and dignity. {bull} Mr. Black arranged for a housekeeper named Leonor whose English was limited to attend Hunter College to advance her opportunities in this country. Mr. Black also paid Leonor's tuition and ensured she had the time to attend classes. {bull} When another housekeeper, Julia, suffered a nervous breakdown due to her divorce, Mr. Black paid close attention to her problems and paid for a year of therapy to help bring her out of her depression. {bull} JOHN HILLIER also suffered depression as a result of a divorce. ... Conrad welcomed both Mr. Hillier and his two children to live at his home ... Mr. Hillier wrote: 'I have found Mr. Black to be a person that shows his compassion and kindness to many people and always will find time to be available to you if needed. I am very privileged to be known by and to call Mr. Black a friend.' {bull} DOMINIC LAWSON WRITES OF THE FACT THAT WHEN HIS YOUNGER DAUGHTER WAS BORN WITH A SIGNIFICANT GENETIC DISABILITY, CONRAD CAME TO HIS HOME TO OFFER MORAL SUPPORT WHEN OTHER FRIENDS HE HAD KNOWNMORE INTIMATELY THAN CONRAD HAD FELT UNABLE TO DO THE SAME. {bull} Conrad became concerned that Dina, the lady who helped clean the office, was working too far into her pregnancy and expressed his concerns to her personally. {bull} After having left a conference to take a sick friend to the hospital and stay with him throughout the night, Conrad was astonished that he should be complimented for his thoughtfulness.

SOURCE: CONRAD BLACK'S SUBMISSION IN RESPONSE TO THE PRESENTENCE INVESTIGATION REPORT

NOTE: ALL EXPERTS TAKEN UNEDITED FROM DOCUMENT

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