U.S. court orders Black to prison on Monday

Media mogul Conrad Black has lost his bid to be freed on bond and will have to report to a Florida prison on Monday.

Media mogul Conrad Black has lost his bid to be freed on bond and will have to report to a Florida prison on Monday.

A U.S. federal appeals court in Chicago on Thursday ruled that Black must go to jail while his appeal of his fraud and obstruction of justice convictions moves through the court system.

The Montreal-born Black was convicted July 13 of obstructing justice and defrauding shareholders of his former newspaper company, Hollinger International Inc. He was sentenced to 6½ years in prison and ordered to start serving his time on March 3.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday did, however, agree to free Black's two co-defendants on bond while they appeal their own fraud sentences.

Former Hollinger executive John Boultbee was sentenced to 27 months in jail while his colleague Peter Atkinson received a 24-month jail sentence.

In explaining the decision not to free Black, the three appeal court judges who ruled on Black's case noted that he was convicted of one offence that the other Hollinger executives were not — the obstruction of justice.

The judges suggested there was little chance the obstruction conviction could be overturned in an appeal.

Black, 63, was charged with obstruction of justice after he was caught on tape removing boxes and documents from his Toronto office after investigators ordered the material not be touched.

Black's appeal lawyer, Andrew L. Frey, scoffed at the notion that the obstruction conviction is strong. He said there is no evidence to suggest Black removed the boxes to interfere with the case.

"I regard that as one of the weakest counts," Frey said from his law office in New York City.

He said he was surprised and disappointed by Thursday's ruling.

"But I still retain a substantial level of confidence that we will prevail," Frey said. "This was just one preliminary round."

The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment.

Allowing convicted defendants to remain free on bond pending appeal is considered unusual in the U.S. court system and generally thought to happen only when the appeals court believes there is a real chance that the conviction will be overturned.

To report to jail by 2 p.m. ET Monday

Black, who gave up his Canadian citizenship to become a member of the British House of Lords, will serve his sentence at a federal correctional centre in Coleman, Fla.

He is to report to the jail by 2 p.m. ET Monday. In the meantime, Black is to remain in either Chicago or the area surrounding his Palm Beach mansion.

Black and his co-defendants were accused of siphoning off millions of dollars that should have gone to shareholders, disguising them as "non-compete" payments.

The payments are made to the sellers of newspapers in exchange for a promise not to return to the same circulation area to compete with the new owners for a specified time.

Hollinger International Inc. was once one of the world's biggest newspaper holding companies. Its properties included The National Post in Canada, The Daily Telegraph of London, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Jerusalem Post, as well as hundreds of community newspapers across the United States and Canada.

All the big papers except the Sun-Times have now been sold, and the company now goes under the name Sun-Times Media Group.

With files from the Associated Press