Conrad Black sentenced to 6-1/2 years
CHICAGO - Former newspaper mogul Conrad Black was sentenced yesterday to 6 1/2 years in prison, far less than sought by prosecutors, for swindling shareholders in his Hollinger media empire out of $6 million.
"Mr. Black, you have violated your duty to Hollinger International shareholders," US District Judge Amy J. St. Eve told the silver-haired millionaire member of the British House of Lords known throughout the newspaper industry for his lavish lifestyle and flamboyant use of words.
Prosecutors had asked for as many as 30 years in prison for the Canadian-born Black, saying he had not shown "one shred of remorse" for looting the company that once owned the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Telegraph of London, Jerusalem Post, and hundreds of US and Canadian community newspapers.
"Obviously, there's a great deal of relief" at the lighter-than-expected sentence, said Black attorney Jeffrey B. Steinback, who delivered a passionate, hourlong appeal for leniency.
Black, currently staying at his estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on a $21 million bond, was given until March 3 to report to prison. St. Eve recommended the federal correctional center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
"Mr. Black will be moving from Palm Beach to Eglin and anyone who has ever heard of either one knows that's a serious change in life conditions," US Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald told reporters.
Within an hour of the sentencing, though, officials said the Eglin correctional facility requested by Black had been closed.
Fitzgerald also was asked about the lighter-than-expected sentence.
"Mr. Black is going to jail as a convicted felon, convicted of fraud. So we proved the case," Fitzgerald said. "The bottom line is Mr. Black will do 6 1/2 years in jail. That's a serious amount of time."
Black left the courthouse without commenting.
But defiant to the end, he told the court his main regret as he faces prison was not what happened when he was running Hollinger but "the evaporation of $1.5 billion of shareholder value under my successors."
Often described as arrogant, he said the stock still was in double digits when he was removed as chairman and suggested its current value of less than $2 a share was the fault of those who came after him.
Black's wife, the conservative columnist Barbara Amiel Black, and daughter, Alana, sat in the first row of spectator seats as he was sentenced. Under federal law he must serve 85 percent of the sentence.
St. Eve said three factors led her to impose a sentence of just 78 months. She rejected a claim by prosecutors that Black should be held responsible for $32 million in shareholder losses. She held him responsible for $6 million - which lowered the potential sentencing range.
St. Eve also said Black's sentence should be closer to that of F. David Radler, his former business partner, who became the government's star witness at the four-month trial. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Radler will get a 29-month sentence and $250,000 fine.