Jailed former newspaper mogul Conrad Black’s lawyers appealed his case Friday, saying federal prosecutors failed to muster adequate evidence that he defrauded anyone or tried to hide key documents.
They told the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that the 62-year-old British baron known as Lord Black of Crossharbour should get his fraud and obstruction of justice convictions thrown out or at least get a new trial.
A federal court jury acquitted Black on nine of the charges against him at the four-month trial that ended last July but convicted him of three fraud counts and one obstruction count.
“Four counts of conviction are left for his appeal, each vainly searching for a theory of criminality,” the 100-page appeals brief said.
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Black was accused of siphoning off millions of dollars belonging to shareholders in his Hollinger International newspaper holding company through what were billed as non-compete payments from buyers of community newspapers owned by the company.
Buyers of newspapers often make non-compete payments in return for a promise from the sellers not to compete against the new owners. But federal prosecutors said such payments rightly belonged to shareholders.
And they argued that the three fraud counts on which jurors convicted Black referred to funds camouflaged as non-compete payments but actually represented instances in which Black and fellow Hollinger executives aided by a company attorney helped themselves to the shareholders money.
The appeals brief, signed by 13 attorneys, was filed not only on behalf of Black but co-defendants Peter Y. Atkinson, John A. Boultbee and Mark S. Kipnis. Another top Hollinger executive, F. David Radler, also was charge in the case but made a deal and is now serving a 29-month sentence.