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Black gets 6½ year jail term

Globe and Mail update

CHICAGO — Conrad Black was sentenced to 61/2 years in prison on Monday.

Judge Amy St. Eve had said she was considering a sentence of between 78 and 97 months for the media mogul. She ultimately decided on a 78 month sentence and a $125,000 (U.S.) fine.

He must also forfeit $6.1-million with no right to restitution.

“You have committed a serious offence, a very serious offence,” Judge St. Eve told Lord Black.

The other co-defendants in the case, Peter Atkinson, John Boultbee and Mark Kipnis were all given the same sentence as Lord Black by Judge St. Eve.

Lord Black made a short statement expressing his deep regret for the loss suffered by Hollinger International shareholders, and for the hardship the trial has caused for his family members and for those of other defendants.

He also praised the judge and added, “I have never uttered one disrespectful word about this court, jurors or prosecutors.”

Judge St. Eve said her sentence would send a signal to corporate America that executives have to work for shareholders, not themselves.

“You have violated your duties to Hollinger International and your shareholders” she told Lord Black who stood before her for the sentence.

Judge St. Eve however did release Lord Black on bail under the existing terms of his bail agreement.

He was told to report to jail on March 3.

Earlier Monday morning, a confident and smiling Lord Black had entered the Chicago courtroom and greeted his lawyers, accompanied by wife Barbara Amiel Black and daughter Alana Black.

Lord Black and three other former executives of Hollinger International were convicted in July of fraud over the diversion of millions of dollars from the Chicago-based company. Lord Black was also convicted of obstruction of justice. They all plan to appeal.

Prosecutors had been pushing for a sentence of more than 20 years for Lord Black, arguing he masterminded the fraud and lied repeatedly to Hollinger shareholders. They also said in court filings that Lord Black had shown no remorse for his crimes.

Lord Black's lawyers had countered by arguing that Lord Black played only a minor role in the fraud and his sentence should be in line with David Radler's. Mr. Radler, Lord Black's former right hand man at Hollinger, pleaded guilty to one fraud charge in 2005 and testified against the other Hollinger executives. He is expected to receive a 29-month sentence next week as part of a plea agreement.

The day began with Judge St. Eve making a number of rulings on sentencing guidelines, which largely favoured Lord Black.

The judge quickly denied Lord Black's request to delay the trial or strike victim impact statements, but said she will proceed with sentencing using less harsh guidelines from 2000.

The decision was a blow to prosecutors, who were pushing for a sentence under the 2007 guidelines — which could have doubled Lord Black's time in jail.

Judge St. Eve also ruled that the amount of the loss related to the fraud is $6.1-million (U.S.), not the $32-million the prosecution wanted.

The amount of money involved in the fraud has been a key issue in the sentencing hearing. Calculations varied because of a dispute over whether the convictions related to a series of transactions involving illicit payments or just one.

Prosecutors said the men were convicted of orchestrating a broad scheme that diverted more than $32-million, but Lord Black's lawyers said the charges related to one transaction and they pegged the figure at less than $3-million. A report by the U.S. Probation Office, prepared for the judge, said the fraud was $6.1-million in total.

The prosecution also lost another ruling regarding where the fraud occurred. Judge St. Eve ruled the fraud was entirely committed in the U.S. while the government had argued some of the fraud had been committed in Canada. By ruling that fraud only occurred in the U.S., Lord Black's likely sentence would be lighter.

Judge St. Eve further ruled that while the fraud involved sophisticated means, Lord Black was not a leader or organizer of fraud.

Lord Black's lawyer gave a passionate plea for mercy in his client's sentencing, quoting from a range of sources including Shakespeare and a letter of support from Elton John.

“I ask this court to consider all of the good that he has done” Jeffery Steinback told judge Amy St Eve. Lord Black “has had a lifetime of extraordinary accomplishment.”

But prosecutor Eric Sussman told the court Lord Black repeatedly lied to shareholders, stole company money and has shown no remorse for his actions.

“Simply put, he's not sorry,” Mr. Sussman told the judge. He urged her to impose a sentence that would deter Lord Black's future behaviour and send a message to corporate America that “good corporate governance is not a fad.”

If the convictions are upheld on appeal, Lord Black and two others — Mr. Atkinson and Mr. Boultbee — will likely serve their time in a low-security prison. They are ineligible for a minimum security, or prison camp, facility because they are not American citizens. Lord Black is British while Mr. Atkinson and Mr. Boultbee are Canadians. One defendant, Mr. Kipnis, is American.

Foreigners are also prohibited from some prison programs and they are not eligible for release to a half-way house during the final six months of their sentence. Typically, inmates must serve 85 per cent of their term before they are eligible for parole. At the end of their sentences, Lord Black and the others will likely be sent to an immigration detention centre to await deportation.

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