Yesterday was Julie Ruder’s day. With her dad proudly looking on from the gallery, the 30-something single mother of two gave a bravura seven-hour performance, summarizing the case for the prosecution before a jam-packed courtroom. By turns calmly articulate, maternal (sometimes to the point of coddling) and righteously indignant, Ruder aimed her theatrics at winning the favour of the only audience that counts—the jury. “Conrad Black is not a rules guy, ladies and gentleman,” she said, using a just-us-folks style that, while striking some in the press corps as patronizing, clearly resonated. Her metaphors and analogies were a pastiche of pop culture and Midwest vernacular. She referred to the stipulations in contracts as “deal or no deal.” In ridiculing the Mammoth Times deal (for which Black demanded non-compete payments in what would only ever be a one newspaper town), she implored her audience to “Look at the cover. Those are snowboarders, people.” She sneered at the idea that Barbara’s birthday party was a business event. “Look at the guest list: Oscar de la Renta, Donald Trump. Come on!” Trump’s celebrity status came up again when Ruder suggested that Black’s asking him to help quell a shareholder revolt at the 2003 annual meeting—the infamous “esoteric favour”—was part of an overall effort to hoodwink the shareholders. What did [Black et al.] think? she asked. “That maybe the shareholders wouldn’t notice that they’d stolen $60 million dollars? It’s the ultimate disdain. It’s offensive.”
Attempting to shore up what is arguably the weakest of the government’s four cases, she dismissed the image of Mark Kipnis as the loyal foot soldier. “Mark Kipnis did not fall off the back of a turnip truck into this courtroom.” She repeatedly implored the jurors to “use your common sense” and be wary of the defence’s “cover story.” Ruder punctuated her presentation with graphics, oftentimes flashing her folksy aphorisms, complete with key words highlighted in yellow on a large screen. “The crime in this case is that the defendants hid and lied about the true reasons the money was paid.”
In the end, Ruder played to the jurors’ vanity and held them up as the standard bearers for justice. “The duty of loyalty didn’t matter to any of these men. Make it matter for the shareholders. Make it matter for the victims of this crime. They are guilty. Find them guilty.” As she delivered these final blows, one of this case’s oldest hands and a keen observer of Black’s life and times turned to a colleague and said in a stage whisper what everyone in the courtroom was likely thinking: “It’s a brand new case.” And one that the Eddies will be hard pressed to counter.