CHICAGO (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Friday ordered former media tycoon Conrad Black to stay in the continental United States while he awaits an appeals court ruling on whether his 2007 fraud conviction should be thrown out.
Black, 65, was released this week on $2 million bond from a Florida prison where he had served two years of a 6 1/2-year sentence for swindling shareholders of newspaper holding company Hollinger International Inc.
Federal District Judge Amy St. Eve, who oversaw Black’s original trial, demanded the Canadian-born Black provide a thorough accounting of his assets before she would consider his request to go to Toronto to attend to his ailing wife, Barbara Amiel Black. She was beside him in court.
“I need additional information,” St. Eve said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty” about Black’s assets.
Black’s lawyer, Miguel Estrada, repeated that his client, a former millionaire and the scion of a Canadian brewing family, did not have assets available to him because a Canadian court injunction has frozen them.
As a result, a businessman had to step forward to guarantee his bond.
Black’s Palm Beach, Florida, mansion, which he previously used to secure his bond, is up for sale and he may live in a New York hotel while his appeal is considered.
The appeal could take the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals just a matter of weeks to decide, U.S. prosecutor Julie Porter said, arguing that Black should be prevented from going to Canada.
Black, a British peer who once led the world’s third-largest newspaper group with titles including London’s Daily Telegraph, Canada’s National Post and the Chicago Sun-Times, entered a Florida prison in March 2008.
Black renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001 to take up the British title, Lord Black of Crossharbour. His lawyer said he had begun the process to renew his British passport, but St. Eve forbade him from obtaining one for now.
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the reach of one of the laws prosecutors used to convict him and sent the case back to the appeals court.
Even if the three fraud counts Black was convicted of are tossed out, he could still be resentenced for the obstruction of justice count, Porter said. But there are concerns that Canada might not recognize that as an extraditable offense, she said.
St. Eve said that if she allowed Black to return to Canada, he would have to sign an extradition waiver requiring him to return. She set an August 16 hearing date.
Black responded with curt answers during a 20-minute hearing in the same courtroom where he was tried. At one point, he leaned over and whispered something in the prosecutor’s ear, but she did not respond.
Neither Black nor his attorney spoke to reporters after the hearing.
Black still faces numerous civil suits related to Hollinger, and U.S. tax authorities have demanded $71 million from him for unpaid taxes.
Editing by Andrew Stern and Peter Cooney