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Jurors in Conrad Black Media Trial Speak Out

AP
Sunday, 15 Jul 2007 | 11:16 AM ET

Jurors who convicted former media baron Conrad Black say the complicated corporate fraud case became easier to understand as prosecutors laid out their evidence, but there wasn't enough evidence to support some charges.

Black, 62, who renounced his Canadian citizenship to become a member of the British House of Lords, was found guilty Friday on three counts of mail fraud and one count of obstruction of justice for moving documents out of his Toronto office in defiance of a court order. He was acquitted on nine other counts, including the most serious charge of racketeering.

At the outset of the trial, it was difficult to keep track of the different companies involved, said juror Tina Kadisak. But eventually, "you began to understand."

The jury struggled with some of the counts during deliberations but said the prosecution came up short in its argument for the racketeering charge. Juror Monica Prince told the Chicago Sun-Times that there wasn't enough "paper evidence" to support a conviction on that count.

Kadisak said the allegations of racketeering were credible but not backed up by the prosecution.

"There wasn't enough evidence there," the 32-year-old hairdresser told the Chicago Tribune. "Could I see that it happened? Yes ... but there wasn't proof of it."

Black was convicted of swindling the Hollinger International newspaper empire he once ran out of millions of dollars. When he was indicted in 2005, prosecutors accused him of bilking shareholders out of $84 million. But during bail discussions that followed the verdict, Black's defense attorneys said he was convicted of stealing $3.5 million.

Three other former Hollinger executives -- John Boultbee, 65, of Victoria, British Columbia, Peter Y. Atkinson, 60, of Oakville, Ontario, and Mark Kipnis, 59, of Northbrook, Ill. -- also were convicted of fraud charges.

Hollinger International, based in Chicago and renamed Sun-Times Media Group Inc. last year, was at one time one of the world's largest publishers of community newspapers as well as the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph of London and Israel's Jerusalem Post.

At the core of the charges against Black was a strategy he arrived at starting in 1998 to sell off the bulk of the small community papers, which were published in smaller cities across the United States and Canada.

Black and other Hollinger executives received millions of dollars in payments from the companies that bought the community papers in return for promises that they would not return to compete with the new owners. Prosecutors said the executives pocketed the money, which they said belonged to shareholders, without telling Hollinger's board of directors.

Jurors said they gave little weight to testimony by F. David Radler. the government's star witness. Radler, the Sun-Times' former publisher and Black's partner in building the Hollinger empire over three decades, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and agreed to testify in exchange for a lenient 29-month sentence and a $250,000 fine.

Black had said he was busy with newspaper interests in Britain and eastern Canada and left many details to Radler, but Radler said Black was well aware of how and why the money was being paid.

However, Prince said Radler seemed to be looking out for Black.

"He was covering up for his buddy," the juror said. "He didn't really say much. He kept contradicting himself. He was trying to fool the jury. He was just trying to get through it. He was trying to confuse the jury to cover for Black."

Jurors delivered their verdict on the 12th day of deliberations.

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