Conrad Black Is About to Be Bailed Out

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The distinction between getting out and getting vindicated is of little concern to the prisoner being set free. Or to anyone who dotes on the prisoner.

"Conrad Black’s victory in court yesterday is a testament to the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity," writes Tasha Kheiriddin in the National Post, a Canadian newspaper Black founded. "Throughout his five-year ordeal, Mr. Black never once surrendered to the challenges before him. Steadfastly maintaining his innocence and his optimism, he went down fighting — and has now risen, phoenix-like, ready to embrace his new-found freedom.

"Mr. Black made enormous sacrifices in his fight for justice. He lost great amounts of wealth; no longer does he possess homes in several countries, or a life of luxury and privilege. He lost many friends; probably not real friends to begin with.... He lost influence; shunned by those who formerly embraced him..."

But Black's innocence isn't the issue.

On Monday a panel of three appellate judges from the Seventh Circuit — Richard Posner, Michael Kanne, and Diane Sykes — ordered that Black be granted bail as he appeals his 2007 conviction on charges of fraud and obstruction of justice. Black, former owner of the Sun-Times, has been serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence in a Florida prison, and the same three judges unanimously rejected Black's original appeal in June 2008, Posner's opinion calling the defendants' defense of lavish noncompete payments they arranged for themselves when Hollinger sold off most of its newspapers "ridiculous" and "preposterous."

But on June 24 the Supreme Court gave Black new grounds for appeal. The Court knocked the props out from under the convictions of Black and three codefendants by unanimously by chopping down to size the legal doctrine of honest services fraud. At Black's trial the prosecution had attacked Black on two fronts: that he'd fraudulently enriched himself and that he'd fraudulently deprived the company he ran, Hollinger International, and its stockholders of his honest services as its CEO. Since no one can be sure which theory the jury decided to convict him under, and one of them has now been rejected by the Court, the fraud convictions cannot stand. That leaves the count of obstruction of justice (Black cleared out his Toronto office after he'd been ordered not to touch anything), but it would be difficult to send him back to prison for obstruction if he'd committed no other crime.

Trial judge Amy St. Eve has scheduled a bond hearing in her courtroom at 8:45 Wednesday morning.

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