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.

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