Tuesday, December 11, 2007

6 1/2 years? Only 6 1/2 years?

Lord Black of Double-Crossharbour (that's the best one I've heard in a long time!) got off lightly, if you ask me. The key to his short sentence was when Judge Amy St. Eve ruled he should be sentenced under the previous guidelines, not new ones introduced this year, which would have likely doubled his sentence. As a result, his prison time will be less than almost all the experts polled by Maclean's predicted. Black didn't even have to surrender himself into custody, being given three months to get his affairs in order and show up for incarceration in March. Not only that, but St. Eve is allowing Black to serve his time in Florida, closer to his home in Palm Beach, and not in icy Northern Illinois.

The one saving grace in all of this, for me at least, is the revelation that it was a journalist who was responsible for the most serious charge being laid against Black. While the fraud charges were the least of his worries, it was an obstruction of justice charge on which Black was convicted that carried the most prison time. According to the Toronto Star, that charge was not laid until a curious journalist started asking questions of prosecutors.

Some weeks after government lawyers filed the original indictment against Black,Wall Street Journal reporter Elena Cherney was working the phones. Now an editorwith The Globe and Mail, Cherney asked assistant U.S. attorney Eric Sussman why prosecutors hadn't charged Black for removing boxes from his Toronto office, violating a court order. Cherney's question would spark Sussman into action and lead to Black's most severe conviction, on obstruction.

The irony, of course, is in Black's long-trumpeted contempt for journalists as a species, to which he once referred as "swarming, grunting masses of jackals." He disposed of them by the hundreds at the many newspapers he acquired over the years. Once, after putting out the Daily Telegraph from behind a London picket line with only manasgement personnel, he deemed the excercise to have exposed "one of the great myths of the industry: that journalists are essential to producing a newspaper." Now, it seems, the ink-stained wreteches have at last extracted a measure of revenge.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Conrad may have skewered himself

Lord Black of Crossharbour, as he prefers to be known, may have added years to his sentence with an interview he did with BBC radio last week. The prosecution in his Chicago fraud sentencing next week has filed a brief pointing to His Lordship's defiance as evidence of a lack of remorse for his crimes. "Black's conduct makes clear that he would engage in the very same conduct again if given the opportunity,'" states the filing by Eric Sussman, assistant U.S. attorney. "To this day, Black maintains his offences of conviction were 'rubbish' and 'nonsense.'" In an interview on BBC4's Today programme, Black called his conviction "an injustice which will be the accepted fact of this case before long." He added that he never testified in his own defense because "it was not conceivable to any of the defendants or their counsel that we had not established well beyond reasonable doubt what we needed to achieve acquittals on every count."

Meanwhile, Black is hoping his celebrity friends can help save him from himself -- and prison. Letters on his behalf have been filed by more than 100 friends and acquaintances, according to a defence lawyer, including such dubious luminaries as Elton John and Rush Limbaugh. Jeffrey Steinback, a Chicago attorney working for Black, says the letters portray describe someone "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."

On the eve of His Lordship's imprisonment, directors of Hollinger, Inc., the newspaper company Black built and then looted of millions, are still trying to find out where the money went. "I don’t know where it is,” said Hollinger chief executive Wes Voorheis. “Black has done everything to make finding the money harder,” he said. Inc, the Canadian company that was used by Black to control Hollinger International. Voorheis is suing Black to recover $750 million, and according to the Sunday Times hired Juval Aviv, a controversial Israeli private investigator based in New York, to follow the money trail last year. "Aviv, who claimed to be a former Israeli commando and Mossad intelligence officer, provided nothing investigator to track it down."

I can hardly wait for Monday!