Ex-media baron Conrad Black freed from U.S. prison

Wed Jul 21, 2010 7:57pm EDT
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By Nick Carey and James Kelleher

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday released former media baron Conrad Black from prison on $2 million bond, while she decides whether to throw out his 2007 conviction for defrauding shareholders.

Adhering to rulings by higher courts, trial Judge Amy St. Eve of the U.S. District Court set Black, 65, free but restricted him to the continental United States for the time being.

Black left the Coleman Federal Prison in central Florida on Wednesday afternoon, according to prison officials.

He left without being spotted by waiting reporters but was seen hours later, in sweat pants and a white T-shirt, sitting cross-legged in the back of a Lincoln Navigator SUV as it arrived at his ocean-front mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.

The Canadian-born Black, a British peer who once led the world's third-largest newspaper publisher, with titles including London's Daily Telegraph, Canada's National Post and the Chicago Sun-Times, entered a Florida prison in March 2008.

A jury convicted him of three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice in a scheme that swindled now defunct media holding company Hollinger International Inc out of $6.1 million. He was acquitted of nine other counts, including racketeering.

Black and three fellow Hollinger executives also convicted in the case arranged to pay themselves tax-free bonuses disguised as non-compete fees as they sold off pieces of the Hollinger empire.

St. Eve sentenced Black to 6-1/2 years in prison, of which he has served slightly more than two years.   Continued...

<p>Convicted former media mogul Conrad Black arrives at his ocean side mansion in Palm Beach, Florida from prison July 21, 2010. REUTERS/Hans Deryk</p>