Be Nice, Judge Warns Reporters Awaiting Conrad Black Trial

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By: E&P Staff

Reporters and cameramen who try “ambush interviews” of people involved in the upcoming trial of disgraced newspaper mogul Conrad Black risk contempt charges and expulsion from the courthouse, the chief judge of U.S. District Court in Chicago has warned.

Judge James Holderman issued an order forbidding the throngs of journalists expected at the trial from interviewing or photographing anyone coming through the lobby of the courthouse. Court security officers were instructed to keep journalists and media workers in a “designated media area” in the lobby, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday in an article by business reporter Mary Wisniewski.

The trial begins March 5, and a huge media presence is predicted, based on the attendance at Black’s arraignment and other hearings since he was indicted on federal criminal charges of racketeering, fraud, tax evasion and more in connection with the alleged looting of $84 million from Hollinger International, which once published newspapers on three continents.

At Black’s arraignment in December of 2005 was a media mob scene just outside the courthouse when eager cameramen and reporters jostled Black and his attorneys to the point that one of them, Edward Genson, was knocked off the scooter he uses because of a neuromuscular condition.

“You know that Capital One commercial? It was like that,” Genson told Wisniewski, referring to the ad campaign that portrays stampeding barbarians. The offending journalists and media workers, he added, were “all Canadian.”

Black, the former chairman of Hollinger International, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, as have two other former top Hollinger executives. Black’s long-time lieutenant, the former Chicago Sun-Times Publisher F. David Radler, pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud in a plea bargain that will give him a reduced prison sentence and that obligates him to testify against his former colleagues.

Ravelston Corp. Ltd., a Toronto holding company Black used to control his empire, has said it will plead guilty in the case.

Hollinger is now known as Sun-Times Media Group, reflecting its sole focus on the Chicago market. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Friday before the trial judge Amy St. Eve.

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