Conrad Black, a once-powerful media mogul whose newspaper empire spanned several continents, is headed back to prison after a federal judge ruled Friday that he had not served enough time for defrauding investors.
U.S. Judge Amy St. Eve sentenced Black to 3 1/2 years in prison, but prosecutors say he will be given credit for the nearly two years he already had served. The resentencing followed an appeals court decision last year.
Black's wife, Barbara Amiel, seated on a courtroom bench, collapsed into the laps of other spectators as the sentence was delivered, and medics were called to attend to her.
Black had addressed the judge for about 20 minutes before the sentence was imposed. He did not concede any guilt.
"I never ask for mercy," he said, standing with his hands on the podium and looking at the judge, "but I do ask for avoidance of injustice."
Prosecutors who brought the fraud case against Black, 66, had depicted him as a devil-may-care elitist who looks down his nose at the rest of humanity. The defense counters he is a gentleman unbowed by adversity who quietly goes about helping others.
A jury convicted Black in 2007, and at the time, St. Eve sentenced him to 6 1/2 years for defrauding investors in Hollinger International Inc.
But Black, whose empire once included the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph of London, the Jerusalem Post and small papers across the United States and Canada, was freed on bail after serving two years to let him pursue what would be partially successful appeals. In the Western New York and Western Pennsylvania regions, Black owned the Olean Times Herald, Bradford Era and Salamanca Press.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago last year tossed out two of Black's fraud convictions but upheld a conviction for fraud and one for obstruction of justice.
It also said St. Eve would have to sentence Black again for those two standing counts.
Despite the nullified counts, prosecutors had asked St. Eve to hand Black the same 6 1/2 -year sentence she originally meted out in 2007, meaning he would have had to spend about 4 1/2 more years in prison.
"He fails to acknowledge his central role in destroying Hollinger International through greed and lies, instead blaming the government and others for what he describes as an unjust persecution," prosecutors said in a recent filing.
Black's lawyers, in turn, have accused government attorneys of vindictiveness, saying their justification for a stiffer sentence displays "a drive-by disparagement of Mr. Black, which reveals nothing but the intensity of the government's dislike for him."
The defense argues Black was a model prisoner, noting that the accomplished biographer -- whose subjects have included Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard M. Nixon -- helped teach inmates American history and economics.
He also gladly offered advice about business and other matters to prisoners who constantly approached him.
But prosecutors say the defense paints too rosy a picture of Black's prison life.
Tammy Padgett, a prison employee, claimed in an affidavit filed by prosecutors that Black had arranged for inmates -- "acting like servants" -- to clean and cook for him, to iron his clothes, mop his floor and perform other chores.
Another employee told her that Black once insisted that she address him as "Lord Black," after an honorary title bestowed on him by Britain, Padgett added.
The defense denied both characterizations.