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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Media mogul Conrad Black off to jail

Former newspaper mogul Conrad Black has definitely seen better days, but for now is off to prison after being sentenced Monday to 6 1/2 years behind bars. While lengthy from Black's point of view, the sentence is considered well shy of what the prosecution was after for the fallen mogul who once could do no wrong. The prosecution of Black came about after he was suspected of then later found guilty of defrauding as much as $6 million out of shareholders in his Hollinger media empire.

The prosecutors were to say the least out for blood over the swindling fiasco Black was found guilty of seeking some 30 years in prison for the Canadian-born former mogul. They strenuously sighted him for not showing "one shred of remorse" for pillaging the company that once owned the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Telegraph of London, Jerusalem Post and hundreds of U.S. and Canadian community newspapers.

"Mr. Black, you have violated your duty to Hollinger International shareholders," U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve told the silver-haired millionaire member of the British House of Lords greatly known throughout the newspaper industry for his lavish lifestyle and grandiose use of words.

"Obviously, there's a great deal of relief" at the lighter-than-expected sentence, said Black attorney Jeffrey B. Steinback, who is said to have delivered a passionate, hour-long appeal for leniency.

Black went so far as to tell the court that Hollinger's stock remained in double digits when he was removed as chairman then suggested its depleted current value of as little as $2 a share was the result of the persecution of himself when he was sought for prosecution.

"I do wish to profess my profound regret and sadness at the severe hardship of all the shareholders at the evaporation of $1.8 billion in shareholder value under my successors," Lord Black of Crossharbour said.

Shareholder, Eugene Fox, managing director of Connecticut-based Cardinal Capital Management Co., provided a victim-impact statement urging St. Eve to punish Black in a way that would send a clear message to other executives to never swindle the shareholders. He went onto to declare that Black had shown contempt for shareholders.

"He called us idiots and greedy fools," Fox said.

The U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was asked by reporters if he was satisfied with the length of the sentence to which he said, "Mr. Black is going to prison a convicted felon, convicted of fraud," Fitzgerald said. So we proved the case. The bottom line is Mr. Black will do 6 1/2 years in jail. That's a serious amount of time."

St. Eve after rejecting the recommendation from prosecutors to lock Black up immediately have instead given him until March 3 to report to prison. Steinback's requested his prison sentence be served at the federal correctional center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., which is near the Palm Beach estate where Black has been living while out on $21 million bond.

"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," Fitzgerald told reporters. But, within an hour of the sentencing officials confirmed that the Eglin correctional facility requested by Black had been closed therefore another correctional facility would have to be determined.

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