Self-ruined titan might as well run

Reputation and possibly freedom gone, Black has nothing left to lose after a smackdown verdict


Par Rosie DiManno

Run, Conrad, Run.
You're a felon now. So go on – go for the fugitive too. Other lords of the realm have done it, gone a-leaping from the law.
Shake that bulging booty and take it on the lam, out of Chicago, out of Illinois, out of the United States.
Can't come here, of course, back to Canada, where Convict Conrad Black no longer enjoys citizenship, and it was his call on that, remember?
Here's one scenario, not entirely fanciful: Barbara Amiel moves to Israel and obtains citizenship under the right of return open to all Jews, then sponsors her DP husband under family reunification principles. Absurd? Or just diabolical enough for the Blacks?
They could become a modern version of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, during that pathetic couple's years of posh Bahamas exile.
Black would have friends in Israel, as former owner of the Jerusalem Post, a staunch establishment newspaper. He could maintain the bully pulpit and privileged lifestyle to which he has become so passionately accustomed, as if it were his entitlement, simultaneously his vulnerability also because appropriating what wasn't his due is what brought the former media mogul down, down, down, down.
Guilty on four counts out of 13 – three fraud, one obstruction of justice – but collectively enough to merit a significant prison term, upwards of 15 years according to sentencing guidelines, as speculated by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, while even Black's acolytes, putting the best spin on things, have gently bruited about incarceration in the two- to six-year range.
Might as well be a life sentence, even in single digits, for someone about to turn 63. While Black may be psychologically fit to withstand jail – a quiet, contemplative environment not entirely unsuitable for the didactic writer and professional biographer – losing this legal fight, so catastrophically, must be infuriating and insupportable.
How tempting it must be to abscond, more so now that it's all done than four months ago, before the trial was launched. Surely there's money for the purpose stashed somewhere, despite the fact Black has, as learned yesterday, failed to make mortgage payments on his Palm Beach mansion.
It can't be about the shame of bolting any more. Black is a man utterly disgraced. What more does he have to lose? Too late in the day to worry about integrity. A Chicago jury has already decided he has none.
Scram and skip is an option, at least, perhaps preferable to the ignominy of jail. And, honestly, the world might be a more interesting place, with Black on the dodge rather than behind bars.
Not easy time, either, in a U.S. penitentiary, even a minimum-security facility, close to "home,'' wherever that might be, perhaps upstate New York, within visiting proximity for his family in Toronto.
America and Israel have extradition agreements, yet these things are somewhat discretionary and susceptible to pressure. Oh, all right then – if not Israel, the planet is full of comfortable hidey-holes for dashing and defiant fugitives.
Though Black, a British citizen, was ordered to turn in his passport yesterday, pending a bond hearing next week – whether he will be allowed to remain at liberty until sentencing, months from now – this complication can be circumvented, too, for those who have the means and the nerve.
It would take balls of brass to flee, but Black has already proven he has those – clanging cojones. In the end, though, all he could muster by way of disdain for the jury was to fix them with a venomous stare. Ooh, I bet they're trembling.
Black as flight risk was pooh-poohed yesterday by his lawyers and the hordes of media who immediately took to the airwaves, postulating about this and that, the felon's most ardent apologists – some who had so confidently predicted acquittal on all counts – not in the least chastened by the verdict, continuing to plump Black's innocence, contemptuous of the jury and American justice.
The fellating of Black, in some quarters, has been astonishing. One courtroom correspondent, blogging instantly as the verdicts were read out, led off his news flash with the not-guilty bits. In my business, we call this burying the lead.
Conviction on "just'' four of the charges was hastily cast by some as a relative victory for the Black crew because it could have been so much uglier and it was a compromised split verdict and appeals will be launched and blah blah blah.
Don't believe it. This was a smackdown, the real mystery how Black could have been acquitted on the racketeering indictment when four defendants were convicted on a slew of charges, and somebody explain how this doesn't satisfy the threshold for racketeering, defined as execution of a plotted scheme.
Punishment, in jail terms, is the bookend to crime, increasingly so even the white-collar version, given the colossal avarice that corporate titans have exhibited in America. It's no fine reflection on Canada that, as some of Black's defenders have asserted, he would probably have been acquitted on similar charges up here. (Black still faces an avalanche of civil suits, up here.)
There was no violence done in these crimes. There weren't even any sympathetic victims, trotted out in court, as has been repeatedly pointed out by Black's sycophants. Indeed, it could be argued that Black was his own most pitiful victim, a self-ruined man.
But he's still a crook. And he made his bed. If daring, though, Black can yet decide where he wants to sleep in it, and with whom.

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