Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

All sorts of reports on the doings and proceedings of Lord Black today, what with juror Jean Kelly’s two-night star turn on CBC’s The National, and Black’s own words being pored over like tea leaves, courtesy of his 1,400-word missive ably transcribed by Nick Stein in Men’s Vogue. There’s a report of a new book on the trial coming from Black himself, and news of Black’s various Warhol portraits, all, as it turns out, of… Conrad Black.

In the midst of this, my curiosity was particularly piqued by Jean Kelly’s assertion that, during deliberations, she stood against a tide of “emotion” that might have seen Black convicted of all 13 charges. Had it not been for her insistence that the jury adjudicate each charge individually on the facts, he would have fared far worse. In the end, the jury was suffused with sufficient reasonable doubt that the government met their burden in only four instances. Still, there’s a sense in most of the coverage that somehow Black dodged a bullet. And yet in the annals of recent American justice, a finding of not guilty is, it seems, no bar to retribution.

Take the recent terrorism case against co-defendants Mohammed Salah and Abdelhaleem Ashqar, tried before Judge Amy St. Eve earlier this year. Both men were accused of racketeering in an effort to further terrorism as practised by the outlawed Hamas organization. Both men were acquitted of the most serious charges against them, but found guilty of lesser charges—Ashqar of contempt of court and obstruction of justice in refusing to testify before the grand jury, and Salah for perjuring himself on a questionnaire in a related civil case. St. Eve has to date sentenced Salah to 21 months, a startlingly severe punishment for lying in a non-criminal case (essentially the same crime as committed by Bill Clinton in the Lewinsky matter) and is entertaining the possibility of a life sentence for Abdelhaleem. This possibility is based on a prosecution recommendation pilloried by the defence as “Kafkaesque” and “cruel and unusual.” Even a former federal terrorism prosecutor went so far as to suggest that a recommendation of a life sentence for contempt “was a very dangerous thing to recommend.” The parallels with the Black case have not gone unnoticed. Writing recently in The New York Sun, Josh Gerstein noted:

“Ashqar’s predicament has parallels to that of a former newspaper baron, Conrad Black. In a subsequent trial before Judge St. Eve in the same Chicago courtroom, Black was acquitted on nine counts and convicted on four others related to self-dealing and fraud at his publicly traded company, Hollinger International. Defence lawyers contend that Black was acquitted on the most serious charges and that any sentence should reflect the acquittals. However, prosecutors have suggested that the newspaper magnate be sentenced to 24 to 30 years in prison. For Black, 63, that would amount to a life term.”

Gerstein went on to quote Ohio State law professor Douglas Berman, a specialist in sentencing issues, who said, “Conrad Black is going to present [this same] issue very starkly.”

It’s also worth noting that in the Salah case, St. Eve made note of interviews she conducted with the jury to help her determine the defendant’s relative culpability. According to Gerstein: “The legal weight of such informal discussions with jurors is murky.” Still, one wonders whether St. Eve conducted similar discussions with the Black jury and, in light of Jean Kelly’s recent revelations, what weight those discussions might carry.

Life Sentence Urged in Hamas Funding Case: Source [The New York Sun]

Black regrets giving up citizenship for lordship: Source [National Post]

Black writes on a subject very close to his heart: Source [The Globe and Mail]

Market news: Warhol’s Conrad Black legacy: Source [Telegraph]