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Conrad Black leaves Florida prison

Media magnate Conrad Black left a Florida prison Wednesday after a Chicago federal judge ordered his release on a $2-million bond pending a review of his 2007 fraud conviction.

U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve ordered Black, who once controlled a media company that owned the Chicago Sun-Times, to appear in her courtroom Friday so she could tell him the conditions of his release.

Black was freed about two years into his 78-month sentence. He was convicted of defrauding shareholders of Hollinger International Inc. through bogus non-compete agreements that paid him and other executives millions of dollars from the sale of newspapers.

Black was forced out as Hollinger’s chief executive in 2003 amid allegations of corrupt practices.

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Black had appealed his conviction.

Last month the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the “honest-services” fraud law that was used to convict Black. The court ruled that the law must include bribes or kickbacks in the deprivation of honest services. The law had been used to prosecute public officials and corporate executives when there wasn’t clear-cut evidence of bribes or kickbacks.

Because the jurors in the Black trial were given the option of convicting him on honest-services fraud, the Supreme Court found that the jury instructions were flawed. It ordered a federal appeals court in Chicago to review Black’s conviction to see if the error was harmless or serious enough to vacate his conviction.

Black was found guilty of three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. The jury said he was not guilty of the bulk of the fraud charges against him.

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After the Supreme Court ruling, Black’s lawyers had asked the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to grant him bond, which the court did Monday.

Judge St. Eve is to set the terms of his release. The government’s lawyers agreed to a $2-million bond with Black’s lawyers. But Black could not secure the bond with any assets, his lawyers said.

A friend of Black’s, Roger Hertog, appeared in court to confirm that he had agreed to secure Black’s bond. Hertog is a New York philanthropist who was the founding partner of investment firm Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

The government, however, did not agree with Black’s lawyers to let him immediately return to his home in Toronto, where his wife lives. St. Eve ordered Black to remain in the U.S. The judge said she would decide whether Black could leave the U.S. after she reviewed his finances.

asachdev@tribune.com


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