Conrad Black counters claim he was not model inmate

Conrad Black is contesting the testimony of two prison workers who suggested that Black wasn't the model inmate his defence lawyers have claimed.
Conrad Black leaves a federal court building in Chicago on July 23, 2010, after his bail hearing. ((Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press))

Conrad Black on Monday contested the testimony of two prison workers who suggested that  Black wasn't the model inmate his defence lawyers have claimed.

The prison workers' testimony is included in documents filed in advance of Black's resentencing hearing on June 24.

In one document, a unit manager at the Coleman prison complex in Florida said the former media baron demanded special treatment and gathered an entourage of inmates who acted like servants for him.

"Those inmates cooked for Black, cleaned for him, mopped his floor, ironed his clothes, and other similar tasks," Tammy Padgett said. "That is not at all frequent at Coleman."

In the document, Padgett quoted Black's assigned case manager as saying that Black had demanded to be called Lord Black the day he was released on bond last summer, awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

"Black told [her] words to the effect of 'I believe I should be addressed as Lord Black from this point forward,'" Padgett said.

In another filing, Carrie De La Garza, an education specialist who supervised Black as a tutor, claimed he was haughty and uninterested in those duties.

"He projected the attitude that he was better than others in the class, both faculty and students," she said in sworn testimony. "A lot of the inmates looked up to him, and there were some who saluted him each day in class."

De La Garza claimed Black was frequently late and often read or worked on writing what appeared to be a book while he was supposed to be teaching.

"In addition, Black elected to take a piano class, which caused him to miss parts of the GED [general educational development] classes," she said. "Of the three tutors assigned to my class during the time Black was an inmate at Coleman, Black put in the fewest hours."

But Black said the testimony is at odds with evidence from other sources provided to the Probation Office and "will be rebutted at the appropriate time by appropriate people."

"They are indicative of the deterioration of the government's case," he said in an email to The Canadian Press.

The filings will be considered by Judge Amy St. Eve, who presided over Black's original trial in 2007, when she hears arguments on whether Black should return to jail on two remaining convictions.

Defence calls Black's efforts 'extraordinary'

Black's defence team has claimed in its filings that his contributions to the community "were nothing short of extraordinary."

"Few indeed could take credit for guiding more than 100 GED candidates to graduation, and Mr. Black's work with his colleagues to more than double the number of graduates (including several who had been written off as hopeless causes) is truly commendable when one considers the very difficult circumstances he faced," the defence filing said.

De La Garza countered with figures suggesting there had been no increase in the graduation rate of the prison's students. Rather, she said, there had been a decline to 81 in 2010 from 87 in 2007.

Black's lawyer, Miguel Estrada, earlier filed documents in advance of Black's resentencing that tout his contributions to the community during his 2½ years at Coleman, and his continuing support of those students since his release last summer.

"Mr. Black stared into the darkest and most devastating period of his life and found the power to improve the lives and opportunities of those whom he encountered," the filing said.

"He did so quietly, humbly, and with no effort to draw attention or praise to his accomplishments."

Black, who had been serving a 6½-year sentence in the U.S. federal prison, has been freed since last summer after the U.S. Supreme Court curtailed the "honest services" laws used to convict Black of defrauding Hollinger International investors.

An appeals court subsequently reversed two convictions, but upheld two others  — on fraud and obstruction of justice. He is scheduled to be resentenced on those charges June 24.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal of those convictions last week, meaning Black won't be cleared of the charges but could remain free if the judge decides to allow him time served on the counts.

The U.S. attorney believes Black's original sentence of 6½ years should be reimposed.

Black's empire once included the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph of London and smaller papers across the United States and Canada.

The Canadian-born businessman was freed on bail from a Florida prison last year while he appealed his conviction for defrauding investors. He had served 29 months of a 78-month sentence for the original four convictions.

With files from The Canadian Press