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Conrad Black to be Out on Bail

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 20, 2010 12:53 PM

Conrad Black, media mogul and guest of a federal minimum security prison in Florida, may soon be out on bail. After a decision by the Supreme Court cast doubt on one of the charges he was convicted on in his trial for fraud, the 65 year-old Lord Black may be released pending the up-coming decision on that charge by a lower federal court.

The Associated Press reports Black was convicted on charges of obstruction of justice and under the "honest services" statute for defrauding the shareholders of media giant Hollinger International out of $6.1 million. Black was acquitted of nine other charges in the case. He has served a little more than 2 years of his 6 1/2 year sentence to date. Prosecutors are hoping to keep Black behind bars, as the new decision on the law does not affect his conviction for obstruction justice.

Last month, the Supreme Court severely narrowed the application of the honest services statute, a law often used by prosecutors to convict executives of fraud against their shareholders, or politicians for misdeeds affecting the public. Some of the high-profile names whose cases have involved this charge include Black, Jeffery Skilling, Rod Blagojevich, Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Jack Abramoff. The Court's decision in Skilling v. United States found the statute was too vague as commonly used by prosecutors and that defendants could only be convicted under it if bribes and or kickbacks were proved.

Black, a wealthy and powerful media figure who gave up his Canadian citizenship to become a member of the U.K. House of Lords, has not always garnered the sympathy of the public. After being criticized by shareholders for the expense of a trip to Bora Bora, he disdainfully replied, "I'm not prepared to re-enact the French revolutionary renunciation of the rights of the nobility." While not evidencing a very appealing attitude, it was likely the video of Black driving away from his office with boxes of documents sought by the government that helped the jury to convict him on the obstruction of justice charges.

A federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman told the AP that Black was still in prison as of Monday, July 19, and it was unclear when he might be released.

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