Conrad Black sentenced to 78 months in jail

Conrad Black has been sentenced in Chicago to 6½ years in prison for his role in the misappropriation of millions of dollars from the newspaper empire he once headed.

Must report to begin sentence on March 3

Canadian-born Conrad Blackwas sentenced Monday in Chicago to 6½ years in prison for his role in the misappropriation of millions of dollars from the newspaper empire he once headed.

He was also fined $125,000 US.Black,who remained expressionless as his sentence was pronounced in federal court,must also forfeit $6.1 million US — the estimated amount of the fraud, according to a pre-sentence report.

Black must report tobegin his sentence on March 3 and will be free until then. His lawyers have asked that he be allowed to serve his sentence at the minimum-security Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida. UnderU.S. rules, he must serve at least 85 per cent of his sentence.

"I think the fact we're appealing speaks for itself," Black said as he left the court.

Defence lawyer Eddie Greenspan noted that his client had been facing what amounted to a life sentence and didn't lose his home. "At the end of the day, to end up where weended up is a hell of a lot better than where we started," he said.

Defence lawyer Andrew Frey said a notice of appeal would be filed in the next 10 days.Frey said the defence would ask that he be allowed to remain free on bail well after March 3 — until his appeal is heard.

The sentence was at the low end of a sentencing guideline that Judge Amy St. Evehad indicated was appropriate for the former media baron.

St. Eve ruled Black had committed a serious crime and that he had violated his duty to Hollinger International and to its shareholders. "No one is above the law in the United States," she told Black.

"I cannot understand how someone of your stature could engage in the conduct you engaged in and put everything at risk," she said.

'It's not a failure'

Black addressed the courtfor just a couple of minutes — his first words inside the courtroom since the case began. Despite speaking out frequently and loudly outsidecourt, he said he was alwaysrespectful.

"I have never once uttered one disrespectful word about this court, your honour, the jurors or the process," he said.

He thanked the judgeand said he regretted the subsequent collapse in the share price atHollinger International —the newspapercompany he was convicted of defrauding.

Prosecutors had been pressing for a long sentence, of 19 to 24 years. The Montreal-bornBlack faced a maximum possible sentence of 35 years.

"It's not a failure," said district attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, when asked about the more lenient sentence Black received."The bottom line is Mr. Black will serve 6½years in jail. That's a serious amount of time."

In July, Black was convicted of three counts of mail fraud relating to the diversion of millions of dollars in non-compete payments from the sale of Hollinger newspapers.

Black was also found guilty of one count of obstruction of justice for removing boxes of documents from his Toronto office. He was acquitted of nine other charges — including racketeering.

Lawyer argued for leniency

Black's chief sentencing lawyer, Jeffrey Steinback,had earlier arguedfor leniency. He described Black as a devoted family man and a respected historian. He also said Black should not be expected to show remorse as he has already filed notice that he plans to appeal his convictions.

Steinback also said Black's obstruction of justice conviction was nottypical, in that it involved no bribery. "In his heart," Black believes he did nothing wrong, Steinback said.

More than 100 letters of supportwere filed with the court on Black's behalf from such luminaries as former prime minister Brian Mulroney, pop star Elton John, U.S. political commentator Rush Limbaugh andCanadian Nobel Prize winner John Polanyi.

In his address to the court, prosecutor Eric Sussman saidBlack's crimes deserved a lengthy sentence, in partbecause of the disdain and defiance Black has shown for theprocess so far.He referred to the e-mails Black exchanged with the CBC's Mike Hornbrook as one example ofthat, when Black said prison would be a "bore."

The judgeruled the prosecution had not made its case that the fraud amounted to $32 million US, and based the sentence on the $6.1-million US loss estimated inthe pre-sentencing report.

Black wasaccompaniedby his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, and daughter Alana Black.They had been in court throughout the four-month trial that ended last summer.

Blackwasn't the only defendant to face sentencing Monday.

Co-accused also sentenced

His three co-accused — John Boultbee, Peter Atkinson and Mark Kipnis — were also convicted of three counts of mail fraud. The judge later threw out one of the convictions against Kipnis.

Boultbee, former chief financial officer of the Hollinger group of newspaper companies controlled by Black, was sentenced to 27 months in jail and will pay $152,500 in restitution and a $500 fine.

Atkinson, former executive vice-president of Hollinger,received a 24-month jail sentence and a fine of $3,000 US.

Kipnis, chief legal counsel for Hollinger, was given five years' probation, including six months of home detention with an electronic tag.

Kipnis got no jail time or fine and was ordered to do 275 hours of community service. About a dozen members of Kipnis's family smiled and some cried and hugged him when the sentence was handed down.

"I physically shook. I had no sense of that," a smiling and red-eyed Kipnis said after the verdict.

With files from the Canadian Press