Conrad Black, the former media mogul, is set to return to prison after a US federal judge resentenced him to three and a half years for obstruction of justice and mail fraud.
The new sentence was issued after Lord Black’s conviction on two fraud counts was overturned last year.
Amy St. Eve, the federal judge in Chicago who had presided over Lord Black’s original trial in 2007 and had sentenced him to six and a half years in prison, handed down the new sentence Friday.
Lord Black will be given credit for the 28 months he already spent in a Florida prison, from March 2008 to July 2010, when he was freed on $2m bail, the justice department said.
The US Supreme Court ruled last year that prosecutors wrongly applied the “honest services” law in their case against the 66-year-old Canadian-born former chief of Hollinger International, who once oversaw an empire including the UK’s Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times and Canada’s National Post.
A federal appellate court however upheld convictions of Lord Black on two other charges, one relating to his removal of documents from his office and another to a $600,000 payment from the sale of two newspapers.
Prosecutors had asked Judge St Eve to repeat the same six and a half year sentence on Friday, but the defence countered that government attorneys were being unnecessarily harsh.
“I accept that a reasonable person could conclude that I am guilty,” Lord Black told the court, but he added that the same reasonable person could conclude that he had been “adequately punished,” Bloomberg reported. “I never ask for mercy,’’ he said,”`but I do ask for avoidance of injustice.’’
Barbara Amiel, Lord Black’s wife, fainted when the ruling was made and had to be helped out of the courtroom, Bloomberg reported.
”I think Mr Black dodged a bullet,” said Andrew Stoltmann, a Chicago lawyer who was not involved in the case. “It’s a little surprising to me especially in this environment, coming off of the great recession and with the American public clamouring for a pound of flesh from corporate CEOs.”
Mr Stoltmann said that while Lord Black can appeal this decision, “he’s pretty much exhausted his options at this point.” He said it was his understanding that Mr Black would be taken into custody immediately and return to the low-security Coleman Federal Correctional Institution in Florida to serve his sentence.
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