Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

Black Watch: Today’s Top Stories

There was an avalanche of coverage this morning discussing the implications of his Lordship’s Pre Sentencing Report (PSR). Led by Times man James Bone, the consensus suggests that if it were up to the anonymous probation officer, Black would do a good deal less time than the braying tricoteuses would have predicted or preferred. “A confidential pre-sentencing report,” writes Bone, “gives Lord Black of Crossharbour hope of a jail term that is decades shorter than demanded by prosecutors in his U.S. fraud case.”

News of the sealed report arrived via a brief prosecutors filed with the court objecting to the PSR’s findings. Chief among these, it seems, is the discrepancy between the report’s finding that the Hollinger four are liable for $6.1 million of fraudulently acquired dosh versus the $32.1 million claimed by the government. The government also objected to the PSR’s conclusion that Black should not be penalized for acting as what Bone terms “the ringleader of the criminal enterprise.” Beyond that, Bone reports: “Although calling it a ‘close call,’ the probation officer also found Lord Black should not receive extra punishment for using ‘sophisticated means’ in his crime. The pre-sentencing report also favoured the use of old sentencing guidelines, in force at the time of the crime, which would also cut the prison term handed down.”

Other reports on both sides of the Atlantic mostly chimed in with Bone. The Star’s Rick Westhead elicited a typically bumptious response from Black via e-mail: “Counsel was satisfied with it. I will not use the word ‘victory’ until this entire outrage has been confined to the proverbial dustbin of history.”

For all that, there are still potentially lead linings to these silver clouds. Writing in the National Post, Theresa Tedesco asserts that from her reading of the government’s briefs, “a U.S. probation office has recommended that Black…should be penalized under tougher current U.S. federal sentencing guidelines while his three co-defendants should be subjected to the more lenient seven-year-old rules.” Although it’s unclear how she derives this, her reporting points up that both the PSR and the various responses from the government and the defence are merely fodder for Judge St. Eve’s interpretation and consideration. And given her track record of late, PSR or no PSR, Conrad Black still has some fretting to do.

Conrad Black ‘could get just five years in jail’: Source [The Times]

Court report could mean 7-year term for Black: Source [Toronto Star]

Conrad Black ‘facing shorter jail term’: Source [Telegraph]

Fraud less severe than prosecution argued, report says: Source [The Globe and Mail]

Black may face strict sentencing guidelines: Source [National Post]