CHICAGO (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Thursday allowed former media baron Conrad Black to remain free on $21 million (10.3 million pounds) bond pending his sentencing later this year on fraud and obstruction convictions.
Judge Amy St. Eve of the U.S. District Court turned down a request from prosecutors who wanted Black’s bond revoked and him taken into custody immediately, arguing that he no longer had the assets to cover his bond.
She told the 62-year-old member of the House of Lords that he had to stay in the Chicago area but could also travel to Palm Beach, Florida, where he has a mansion, provided he notified a court officer first.
She also expressed concerns about the assets question raised by prosecutors and set another hearing for August 1, at which time she told Black’s lawyers to provide more details about his finances and how they relate to the bond.
Until then, she said, she was keeping Black’s British passport, which he had surrendered after his conviction last week. He renounced his Canadian citizenship when he accepted the peerage.
Prosecutors argued that if Black returned to Canada, an agreement made in a U.S. court waiving extradition would not be enforceable under Canadian law. They produced a letter from Canadian officials saying the same thing.
Black’s lawyer, Edward Greenspan, said Black would be able to return to Canada because his temporary residency permit does not expire until November 27, 2007, and could be extended. Greenspan, a Canadian, offered to keep Black’s passport if he were allowed to return to Canada.
Greenspan sought to provide assurances to the judge that Black would appear for sentencing, saying that all prosecutor Eric Sussman would have to do would be to make a telephone call and have Black arrested.
Sussman then retorted: “There’s no call I can make to Canada to get anything other than a pizza.”
St. Eve then weighed in.
“My concern is not that he’s going to run and hide,” the judge said. “What would be consistent with his behaviour is that Mr. Black would decide to fight coming back — he would fight extradition.”
Prosecutors in a brief filed before the hearing said that “Black’s conduct from the outset of these proceedings has demonstrated a lack of respect for the conditions of his release and the entire judicial process.”
“Simply put, Black faces the potential of spending the rest of his life in a U.S. prison,” for a range of 24 to 30 years, it added.
The brief also said Black faces forfeiture of $6.1 million from the sale of his Park Avenue apartment and that he is in default on a $10 million mortgage for his Palm Beach property. Both assets were used to secure the bond.
Black was found guilty on three counts of fraud and one count of obstructing justice in swindling former media giant Hollinger International Inc. Three fellow former executives were also convicted. Prosecutors said on Thursday that Black was guilty of defrauding Hollinger shareholders out of more than $22.5 million.
Black is appealing.