Mary Vallis, CanWest News Service - CHICAGO - A jury in Chicago found Conrad Black guilty Friday on multiple fraud charges and one more serious charge - obstruction of justice.
The jury, comprising nine women and three men, deliberated for 12 days before concluding that Black was guilty on four charges, including mail fraud and obstruction of justice.
Black, who turned in his British passport and was ordered to stay in Chicago, will be sentenced on Nov. 30.
"This is a common-sense verdict involving some pretty clear transactions that were not entirely fair to the shareholders of Hollinger International," said Hugh Totten, a Chicago lawyer with the firm Perkins Coie who has been following the case.
Black's conviction on three mail fraud charges carry maximum penalties of five years each and fines of up to $250,000. The more serious charge of obstruction of justice carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and/or a fine of $250,000.
Potentially, Black faces 35 years in prison and a $1-million fine.
"Obviously we're disappointed," said Black's Canadian lawyer Edward Greenspan. "We came here to be acquitted of everything."
Assistant U.S. attorney Eric Sussman had earlier asked Judge Amy St. Eve to revoke Black's bail.
"He is likely to flee and not return for sentencing," Sussman said, noting that "very conservatively," Black faces 15 to 20 years in prison. He also said Black has not complied with the conditions of his bond and "made a conscious decision" not to do so.
Greenspan had argued that Black intends to "return to Toronto and stay there" pending the outcome of the Chicago case and other matters. He suggested the disgraced press baron could report to his office daily.
Chicago-based defence lawyer Edward Genson added: "Black has no intention to flee" and noted his client has already obtained legal representation for his appeal.
Sussman also argued that Black is in violation of a forfeiture agreement that stipulated he must pay off a $10 million US mortgage on his Palm Beach property. He also told the court that the residence is subject to forfeiture because Black invested some of the proceeds of the crimes of which he was convicted into the property.
St Eve, however, has indicated she wants to read the forfeiture agreement before making a decision.
The judge also asked Black's attorneys whether there are any additional assets Black or his wife can post for bail.
Government's forfeiture submissions must be filed with Chicago federal court by Aug. 13, defence must file by Sept. 4.
The split verdict in Black's case is the best possible outcome for the prosecution, said Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor with the firm Shulman Rogers who has been following the case.
"A split verdict reflects that the jury carefully considered each of the allegations and was prepared to distinguish between those in which the government met its burden of proof and those in which it failed to do so," he said.
During the trial, the U.S. government alleged Black and three other senior Hollinger International executives - Peter Atkinson, Jack Boultbee, and Mark Kipnis - misappropriated $60 million US in bonuses disguised as non-compete payments from Hollinger International during the sale of newspaper assets.
Boultbee, Atkinson and Kipnis were each found guilty of three counts of mail fraud, but not guilty on other charges.
"We're gratified by the jury's verdict," said Patrick Fitzgerald, who led the prosecution. "(It)_vindicates the serious public interest in making sure that when insiders in a corporation deal with money entrusted to them by the shareholders, that they're not engaged in self-dealing, that they not break the law to benefit themselves instead of the shareholders.
He also backed up Sussman's estimate that Black could face 15 to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced.
"He (Black) was charged," said Fitzgerald. "He is now a convicted felon."
Kipnis did not receive any of the disputed $60 million US in non-compete payments.
Ron Safer, Kipnis' lawyer, said: "These were extremely complex facts. We believe (the jurors) were not able to differentiate Mr. Kipnis' situation. We will continue to pursue all avenues available to us."
The jury had been deliberating on a total of 42 charges.
Black, dressed in a tan suit, appeared at the courthouse at about 11:20 a.m. ET, with his wife, Barbara Amiel, and daughter Alana.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your service," Eve said before the jury filed out after delivering their verdict.
Black approached the judge with his lawyers and was placed under oath to waive his right to have forfeiture decided by the jury - meaning the judge will decide on her own any matters related to Black's transfer of property to the court - and answered St. Eve's questions in a low, measured voice.
"There are a lot of significant issues for the appeal," Frenkel said. "This case is far from over."
Earlier in the week, the jurors indicated they were deadlocked on "one or more" of the counts.
St. Eve urged the jury to continue deliberating before accepting a partial verdict.
The verdict was widely anticipated on Friday. Several jurors appeared to have dressed up for the occasion as they arrived the federal courthouse under a mandate to deliberate for four hours.
Several tourists from New Brunswick milled with journalists outside the courtroom, hoping they would be in time for the action.
The 15-week trial in Chicago federal court revolved around the sale of Hollinger International Inc.'s sale of newspaper assets.
Prosecutors argued the money should have gone to Hollinger's shareholders.
"It's sad," said a shareholder of Sun-Times Media, the former Hollinger International. "This didn't have to happen. He (Black) ... had many opportunities along the way to make different choices."
Sussman told the jury that the non-compete payments to the co-defendants "smell to high heaven" and were not requested by the buyers in the transactions.
The government also alleged that Black misused company money to fund a lavish lifestyle by throwing a surprise 60th birthday party for Amiel, buying a Park Avenue apartment from the company at an unfair price and taking a company jet to Bora Bora.
Legal observers repeatedly said that it was unlikely the four co-defendants would be acquitted, in part because they faced so many charges and the success rate of prosecutors in Chicago federal court is 95 per cent.
Over the course of the 15-week trial, prosecutors called nearly three dozen witnesses to explain the intricacies of the complex transactions and Hollinger's complicated corporate structure.
Black's defence attorneys called only 10 witnesses. Most of them testified to counter prosecutors' allegations that the press baron abused corporate perks and explain to the jury why Black had in 2005 removed boxes from the Toronto headquarters of Hollinger Inc., Hollinger International's parent company. The removal of the boxes was the basis for the obstruction of justice charge.
During the trial, defence lawyers savaged the credibility of the government's star witness, David Radler, who served as president of Hollinger International and was Black's closest business associate for 30 years as they built an international publishing empire. Radler testified that the alleged "scheme" to take money from Hollinger International was Black's idea.
Radler admitted on the stand that he had initially lied to FBI agents, investigators with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission and postal inspectors, as well as his own lawyer and the prosecutors that later put him on the witness stand in Chicago. Defence lawyers argued that in light of his history, the jury could not trust that Radler told them the truth, but the jury appears to have accepted his testimony.
One of St. Eve's instructions of the jury members advised them to be cautious of Radler's testimony. He pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in 2005.
The government agreed to a lenient sentence of 29 months that Radler is expected to serve in Canada in exchange for his testimony against his former colleagues.
Defence attorneys attacked Radler's "sweetheart deal" and told the jury he will likely only serve six months of his sentence in a lax Canadian prison.
Following is a timeline of events in the prosecution of Conrad Black:
May 1998 -- Hollinger International embarks on a three-year sell-off of hundreds of its U.S. community newspapers.
July 31, 2000 -- Hollinger International sells its 13 major Canadians newspapers, as well as 126 community papers, Internet properties and half of the National Post to CanWest Global Communications for $3.2 billion.
Oct. 30, 2001 -- After renouncing his Canadian citizenship, Conrad Black takes his seat in the British House of Lords and adopts the title Lord Black of Crossharbour.
June 17, 2003 -- Hollinger International begins investigation of $74 million US in non-compete fees paid to Black, other executives and Black's Ravelston Corp., in the sale of the company's newspaper assets.
Nov. 19, 2003 -- Black steps down as CEO of Hollinger International and puts company up for sale. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Ontario Securities Commission announce probes.
Dec. 22, 2003 -- Black appears before the SEC, but refuses to answer questions, invoking the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Jan. 17, 2004 -- Hollinger International removes Black as chairman and launches $200-million US lawsuit against him and David Radler over alleged financial irregularities.
Jan. 18, 2004 -- Black announces the $600 million sale of his controlling stake in Hollinger Inc., his Canadian holding company, to David and Frederick Barclay. The sale would give the Barclays effective control over Hollinger International and its prize British asset, The Telegraph.
Jan. 26, 2004 -- Hollinger International launches a lawsuit to stop the sale to the Barclay brothers.
Feb. 26, 2004 -- Delaware Judge Leo Strine blocks the sale of Hollinger Inc. to the Barclays, saying Black's explanations "do not have the ring of truth" and that he "breached his fiduciary and contractual duties persistently and seriously."
March 8, 2004 -- Black is removed as chairman of the Telegraph group by its directors.
April 30, 2004 -- Hollinger International raises its lawsuit against Black and others to $1.25 billion, alleging racketeering.
June 22, 2004 -- Hollinger International sells the Telegraph Group to the Barclays for $1.65 billion U.S.
Aug. 31, 2004 --A special committee of Hollinger directors issues a damning report accusing Black and other executives of running a "corporate kleptocracy" and siphoning off hundreds of millions of dollars they weren't entitled to.
Oct. 1, 2004 -- Black responds by suing the special committee for $1.1 billion for defamation.
Oct. 8, 2004 -- A U.S. Federal Court judge throws out Hollinger International's $1.25-billion racketeering lawsuit.
March 18, 2005 -- The Ontario Securities Commission files notice it intends to charge Black, Hollinger and other former executives with violations of securities law.
March 23, 2005 -- U.S. prosecutors confirm Black, Radler and Hollinger Inc. are the subject of a criminal investigation.
April 20, 2005 -- Black and Radler resign as officers and directors of Ravelston, Black's private holding company. Ravelston files for bankruptcy protection, saying it is no longer receiving management fees from Hollinger International or Hollinger Inc.
May 25, 2005 -- Black and his personal chauffeur are caught on security video removing 12 boxes of documents from Hollinger Inc.'s offices despite a court order barring their removal.
Aug. 18, 2005 - David Radler, former Hollinger lawyer Mark Kipnis and Ravelston Corp. are charged with fraud by U.S. federal prosecutors.
Sept. 20, 2005 -- As part of a plea bargain, Radler pleads guilty to mail fraud. He is fined $250,000 and given a reduced sentence of 29 months in return for co-operating with prosecutors.
Nov. 17, 2005 -- Black is charged with eight counts of mail and wire fraud by U.S. prosecutors. Former Hollinger executives Peter Atkinson and John Boultbee are also charged.
Dec. 1, 2005 -- Black appears in Chicago court and enters a plea of not guilty, as does Atkinson. Black is released on $20 million bail.
Dec. 7, 2005 -- Boultbee pleads not guilty.
Dec. 15, 2005 -- Prosecutors bring four new charges against Black, including racketeering, obstruction of justice and money laundering.
June 26, 2006 -- Black's bail is increased by $1 million after prosecutors accuse him of not telling the truth about his personal worth.
Sept. 8, 2006 -- Black is arraigned in Chicago on new tax evasion charges.
Sept. 15, 2006 -- Black confirms he is trying to regain his Canadian citizenship, renounced in 2001 so he could accept a peerage in Britain.
March 14, 2007 -- Jury selection begins in trial of Black, Atkinson, Boultbee and Kipnis.
Black guilty of four charges, could face 35 years in prison
Co-defendants guilty of three charges each