Conrad Black Stubborn but Innocent, Lawyer Says

By: Conrad Black's defense attorney made a final emotional appeal to jurors Wednesday, urging them to understand that the fallen media magnate "is a little bit of a stubborn man but an innocent man."

"These last few days have been long ones for Conrad and his family," Edward M. Genson said during closing arguments for the once powerful chief executive of the Hollinger newspaper empire, now on trial for racketeering and fraud.

Genson called on the middle-class Chicago jury to avoid any bias against Black merely because he has money.

"Being wealthy doesn't make you a bad man," he said.

He told jurors to ignore as irrelevant Black's frequent flights of elaborate and high-flown rhetoric and instead see him as "a brilliant entrepreneur" who had "done good things for Hollinger" and was himself the victim of investors who wanted to take over the company.

"He is a little bit of a stubborn man but an innocent man," he said.

Hollinger, which once ran hundreds of community newspapers across the United States and Canada as well as the Chicago Sun-Times, the Toronto-based National Post, The Daily Telegraph and the Jerusalem Post, has largely been broken up.

All of the large papers except the Sun-Times have been sold and the company has changed its name to Sun-Times Media Group.

Black is accused, along with former Hollinger International vice presidents John Boultbee and Peter Atkinson, and former corporate counsel Mark Kipnis, of swindling the media company out of more than $60 million.

Numerous Hollinger-owned community newspapers in the U.S. and Canada were sold starting in 1998 and large sums were paid in return for agreements that Hollinger would not compete with the new owners.

Most of the money went to Hollinger International but millions were paid to Black, Boultbee, Atkinson and F. David Radler, the company's No. 2 who has already pleaded guilty and was the government's star witness.

Prosecutors say all of the money should have gone to Hollinger International shareholders. Black says he did not negotiate most of the non-compete deals and had no idea there was anything illegal about them _ if there ever was.

Black also is accused of cheating Hollinger International by taking the company plane on a vacation to Bora Bora in French Polynesia, billing shareholders $40,000 for his wife's birthday party and paying below the market rate when he bought a company apartment on New York's Park Avenue.

Black says he paid his fair share in all three matters.

"The government has overreached in this case, the government has manipulated the facts in this case," Genson said.

Closing arguments in the case are likely to run into next week, according to U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve.

Jurors will then begin deliberating 14 weeks of evidence.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here