Sunday, August 1, 2010

Conrad Black Freed

Conrad Black, the former controller of media industry leader Hollinger International, has been released from prison. Prior to the government forcing Mr. Black out of its leadership, Hollinger International, Inc had been the world's third largest media entity, publishing through its various affiliates some of the world's major newspapers, including The Daily Telegraph (UK), Chicago Sun Times (USA), Jerusalem Post (Israel), National Post (Canada), and hundreds of community newspapers in North America.

The United States Supreme Court had been asked to review the vague and broad definition of "honest services" fraud statutes under which Mr. Black had been convicted. Their decision, released on June 24th, 2010, ordered the Illinois appeal court to review the three fraud convictions in light of the Supreme Court's clarification of the definition "honest services" fraud. On July 19th, 2010, Mr. Black was granted bail pending a decision by the court on whether to retry his 2008 criminal fraud conviction. He was released on July 21, 2010, on a $2 million bond signed by Roger Hertog. On August 16th his bail hearing will resume, Mr. Black's lawyers and the prosecution having been ordered by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to submit written arguments for the court's review of his case.

Mr. Black's entire trial and conviction was a testament to how far this country has gone in the distortion of our judicial system, and brought to mind the misuse of the law and bullying by former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and former North Carolina Duke Lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong. All the sordid parts of nefarious prosecutions were there, including an ambitious government lawyer, a supposedly privileged preferred target, and the use of the extensive powers of the government to wear down and intimidate the defendant and his associates.

Throughout his Quixotic struggle, Mr. Black has remained upbeat and optimistic, ever hopeful that right would win out. After his conviction came down, he remained an inspiration of courage, determination and energy, writing articles for National Review from his prison cell and initiating a course in Literature for his fellow inmates. I have the greatest respect and admiration for Conrad Black. He is a remarkably principled and courageous man.

Congratulations Mr. Black. Welcome back!

"Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."


  1. Strangely enough, The Shawshank Redemption (a great movie by the way Cathy) was mentioned in the closing argument for Mr. Black's defense. The prosecution flipped the reference before the unsympathetic jury, claiming the correct correlation was that like Andy Defresne (the Tim Robbins character), Mr. Black was one who would get in good with those that were in power and cut advantageous deals for himself.

    This shockingly thin understanding of the story seemed to make sense to the movie sophisticates over at The Guardian, who concluded:

    "Not everyone loves that film, though. Conrad's formidable judge, Amy St Eve, might be one of them."

    Yes, well Conrad's formidable judge was not the problem. The problem was in the system itself. She was just a cog in the wheel. My guess, in the end her role will play out more as a likeness of the warden then the hero.

  2. Mr. Black comments at The National Post:

    "In my 28 months as a guest of the US government, I often wondered how my time in that role would end. I never expected that I would have to serve the whole term, though I was, and am, psychologically prepared to do so, now that I have learned more of the fallibility of American justice, which does convict many people, who, like me, would never dream of committing a crime in a thousand years"

    Gutty guy, with an eerily familiar story:

    "It had been an interesting experience, from which I developed a much greater practical knowledge than I had ever had before of those who had drawn a short straw from the system"

    And of course, the insiders view he gained that prior to now he had only heard of before:

    "And I had heard the vehement allegations of many fellow residents of the fraudulence of the public defender system, where court-appointed lawyers, it is universally and plausibly alleged, are more often than not stooges of the prosecutors. They are paid for the number of clients they represent rather than for their level of success, and they do usually plead their clients to prison. They provide a thin veneer for the fable of the poor citizen’s day in court to receive impartial justice through due process."

    This all rings true to me. Well, the program has generated another successful graduate of the process whereby we insure our general safety.

    Lucky us.

  3. I saw this the other day. There's a lot to be said for watching how someone behaves in the worst of circumstances, and Black decided to educate people who would not have been otherwise -- in prison or out. Not too shabby.

    Speaking of "Shawshank" -- I had been wondering whether it would be a good movie for the Club. I just don't know whether it is too violent for me. ??