Conrad Black gets bail

Media baron Conrad Black has won release on bail pending a review of his conviction for fraud by an appeal court.

Media baron Conrad Black has won release on bail pending a review of his conviction for fraud by an appeal court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals has issued an order granting bail, but it's not clear yet when Black will be released.

Convicted newspaper mogul Conrad Black has won bail, but when he will be released from prison isn't clear. ((M. Spencer Green/Associated Press))

Terms of his bail will be set by Judge Amy St. Eve, who presided over Black's criminal trial in Chicago. This will happen as soon as Black and his lawyer can get in front of her.

"We are extremely pleased the court of appeals rejected the government's argument that our unanimous supreme court victory meant nothing," Black's appeal lawyer Miguel Estrada wrote in an email.

"According to the court of appeals, the trial judge must now set the bail terms," Estrada wrote. "I am trying to get on the judge's calendar so we can finalize the details and get Lord Black out as soon as possible."

Several U.S. legal experts said Black is likely to be released before the end of this week.

Lawyers for the Montreal-born Black argued July 6 that he should be released immediately in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in late June that set aside his fraud convictions.

"Mr. Black has been in custody for over two years," Estrada said at the time in a 26-page filing with the court.

"The additional time he spends in prison between now and a favourable ruling can never be returned to him. Mr. Black should be granted release pending appeal," Estrada argued.

Obstruction verdict remains

The U.S. top court set aside Black's three fraud convictions in June, but his one conviction for obstruction of justice remains in place.

However, Black's lawyers are arguing the obstruction conviction should also be thrown out.

The 7th Circuit Court is the same one that first denied Black's request for bail in 2007 after he was convicted, along with three other Hollinger executives. Black was sentenced December 10, 2007, to serve 6½ years in prison.

But on June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously set aside his three fraud convictions under the honest services fraud law.

The nine justices agreed the statute had been too broadly applied by prosecutors and limited its application to cases involving bribes or kickbacks.

The court remanded the case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal in Illinois to determine whether his convictions should be overturned. That is expected to happen by the fall.

The lower court must now review how its earlier ruling based on the application of the honest services fraud law affects the rest of Black's convictions.

Sentenced to 6½ years

Wall Street securities lawyer Bill Singer told CBC News the decision came as no surprise.

"It was very clear that the Supreme Court of the United States was troubled and concerned about the basis upon which portions of the criminal cases against both [Black and former Enron executive Jeff Skilling] proceeded and as a result there is a ticklish question as to whether or not … [the other charges are now void because] of the violation concerning honest services."

"It's not a suggestion that they're innocent. It's not a finding that they're not guilty," Singer said. "It's just a sense that the criminal prosecution was flawed and that in fairness it is better for them to remain free until the case is re-tried and concluded."

Black and his co-defendants argued they intended no economic harm to Hollinger when, as managers, they received $6.1 million in fees. Prosecutors argued at the original trial that the money was stolen from the company and its shareholders.

Black, 65, has served more than two years of his sentence at the minimum-security Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida, since entering prison in March 3, 2008.

With files from The Canadian Press