Tag: Conrad Black

Supreme Court Rules for Enron's Jeff Skilling and Conrad Black on "Honest Services" Fraud

Some good news for Enron's Jeff Skilling and for Conrad Black: The Supreme Court has ruled in their favor on their challenge to the "honest services" portion of the fraud statute.

Section 1346, which proscribes fraudulent deprivations of “the intangible right of honest services,” is properly confined to cover only bribery and kickback schemes. Because Skilling’s alleged misconduct entailed no bribe or kickback, it does not fall within the Court’s confinement of §1346’s proscription.

The 114 page Skilling opinion is here. The Conrad Black opinion is here.

But, the court did not throw out the statute entirely, and it didn't reverse Skilling or Black's convictions, finding the error might be harmless and it will be up to the lower court or appeals court whether to overturn them. Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy would have found the statute unconstitutional.

But the justices, in an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said prosecutors may continue to seek honest services fraud convictions in cases where they put forward evidence that defendants accepted bribes or kickbacks. "Because Skilling's misconduct entailed no bribe or kickback," Ginsburg said, "he did not conspire to commit honest-services fraud under our confined construction" of the law. [More...]

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Lord Conrad Black Phones Home From FPC

Lord Conrad Black (background here)isn't having a bad time at the Federal Prison Camp in Coleman, Florida . Nonetheless, he has some scathing comments about our criminal justice system and federal prosecutors in his recent commentary in the Times Online, titled "From my cell I scent the reeking soul of US justice." The most salient paragraphs are below:

US federal prosecutors, almost all of whom would be disbarred for their antics if they were in Britain or Canada, win more than 90% of their cases thanks to the withering of the constitutional guarantees of due process – that is, the grand jury as an assurance against capricious prosecution, no seizure of property without just compensation, access to counsel, an impartial jury, speedy justice and reasonable bail.

....The system is based on the plea bargain: the barefaced exchange of incriminating testimony for immunity or a reduced sentence. It is intimidation and suborned or extorted perjury, an outright rape of any plausible definition of justice.

On our misguided war on drugs [More...]

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Conrad Black Loses Appeal

Newspaper magnate and British Baron, Lord Conrad Black, already serving his 6 1/2 year federal prison term for fraud, lost his appeal today.

The convictions relate to millions of dollars that prosecutors said were illegally pocketed from the Hollinger International newspaper empire, since renamed Sun-Times Media. The former media baron has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence and has vowed to continue to fight the convictions.

The Chicago Tribune report is here. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision is here (pdf.) It contains some interesting comments on "the ostrich instruction" which basically tells the jury if they find the defendant buried his head in the sand to avoid knowing what was going on, they can find him guilty.

Judge Richard Posner wrote the opinion. The trial judge was Amy St. Eve, the same judge that presided over the Tony Rezko trial. [More...]

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Chicago Crime Update: No Appeal Bond for Conrad Black, Jury Will See Photos of Rezko's House

Two news items from Chicago today. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an appeal bond for Conrad Black, while granting one to his two co-defendants. The British publishing magnate must report Monday to a federal prison in Coleman, Florida to start serving his 6 1/2 year sentence.

While the Court said there's a substantial issue on the fraud convictions (which, if decided in defendant's favor, likely would result in a reversal or new trial being granted) it found no such issue on Black's obstruction of justice conviction. The old coverup -- it gets you every time.

In the Anton Rezko trial which begins with jury selection Monday, the judge ruled today that photos of Rezko's mansion will come into evidence because it shows his opulent lifestyle and some of the alleged unlawful fundraising activity took place there.[More...]

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Conrad Black Sentenced to 6 1/2 Years, Keeps Homes in Palm Beach and NYC

Conrad Black didn't do too badly at his sentencing today. He got 6 1/2 years, the bottom of the guidelines, he has to return $6.1 million and pay a $125,000 fine. The Government initially sought a 24 year sentence, but after the Judge rejected its guideline computations and adopted a guideline range of 6 1/2 to 8 years, it dropped its request to 8 years. Still, Black got the bottom of the range. Also,

The judge allowed Black to remain free on bail until March 3, when he is to report to prison. She granted a defense request that he serve his term at a low security facility at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. She rejected U.S. requests to seize Black's Palm Beach, Florida, home or the proceeds of the sale of his Manhattan apartment.

....The judge rejected U.S. efforts to sentence Black under tougher guidelines or to consider the higher fraud amount found by the internal Hollinger investigation.

Turns out, Eglin's closed, so he'll have to go somewhere else.

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