U.S. court denies Conrad Black bond during appeal

Thu Feb 28, 2008 7:36pm EST
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By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A federal appeals court denied on Thursday Conrad Black's request to remain free on bond during the appeal of his convictions for fraud and obstructing justice, though the judges indicated his appeal had at least a chance.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit extended the bond of two other former Hollinger International Inc executives convicted along with Black in July, but did not tip their hand on which way the court may ultimately rule on the appeal.

The ruling means in all likelihood the flamboyant former press baron and member of Britain's House of Lords must surrender on Monday to a Florida prison to begin serving his 6-1/2-year sentence.

"Defendant Black must report to prison on or before March 3, as required by the district court's order," the panel wrote.

In December, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve sentenced Black for obstructing justice and defrauding shareholders of Hollinger International, once the world's third-largest publisher of English-language newspapers where internal auditors once accused Black of operating the chain as a "corporate kleptocracy."

But two other former executives convicted with Black, John Boultbee and Peter Atkinson, were both permitted to remain free on bond during the appeal process. The court said a reversal on some counts where there was a "'substantial' question" would unfairly penalize them with longer prison terms than they should serve while the appeal is decided.

Atkinson was sentenced by St. Eve to 24 months and Boultbee to 27 months.

Black, however, was found guilty on the additional count of obstructing justice, which carried a more severe 78-month sentence, the court said. His sentence is "substantially longer than the normal course of an appeal," they reasoned.   Continued...

<p>Conrad Black leaves the Derksen Federal Courthouse after his sentencing hearing in Chicago December 10, 2007. REUTERS/John Gress</p>