Media Mogul Insists He Did No Wrong

** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS DEC. 8-9 ** ** FILE ** Former media baron Conrad Black leaves Federal Court after his status hearing at Chicago's Federal Court in this Feb. 10, 2006 file photo. Strong willed, possessed of a powerful ego and given to dizzying flights of rhetoric, the 63-year-old British baron known as Lord Black of Crossharbour is expected to be sentenced Monday, Dec. 10, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, file) AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Former newspaper mogul Conrad Black was called generous, caring and highly charitable, as well as scornful, defiant and without remorse before being sentenced Monday to 6½ years in prison for swindling shareholders in his Hollinger International media empire out of millions of dollars.

Black, 63, a Canadian-born member of the British House of Lords renowned for his lavish lifestyle and flamboyant way with words, had faced up to slightly more than 8 years in prison under sentencing guidelines determined earlier Monday by U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve.

Federal prosecutors wanted the silver-haired press lord, a talented biographer whose subjects include Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard M. Nixon, sent to federal prison for as long as 24 years.

Defense attorney Jeffrey B. Steinback read to St. Eve portions of letters written on Black's behalf from singer Elton John, conservative writers William Buckley and George Will and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

"This man has been a historian, has been an entrepreneur, he's been a statesman, a writer, a devoted husband, a loving father," said Steinback, who added that Black remains intent on pursuing an appeal.

Leading prosecutor Eric H. Sussman told the judge he did not question Black's accomplishments but that "Mr. Black stands here today convicted of stealing money from the company he founded and of obstructing the course of justice."

Unlike a bank robber who steals from strangers, "Mr. Black stole money from people he did know ... he stole money from people who put their trust in him," said Sussman, who added that Black continues to insist he did nothing wrong and "will continue with this conduct again if given the chance."

Two other former Hollinger executives, both Canadians, and a Chicago lawyer who worked for the big media holding company were convicted along with Black and also were due to be sentenced Monday.

While awaiting his sentence, Black had been prevented by court order from returning to Canada and required to remain either in the Chicago area or at his Florida estate. He has been free on $21 million bond.

A major point of dispute has been how to calculate the total loss to shareholders. Prosecutors put it at $32 million. But a pre-sentence report, prepared by the probation department, figured the loss at $6 million.

The lower number could mean a shorter sentence for Black if St. Eve accepts it.

Black was convicted by a jury July 13 of three counts of mail fraud. He also was convicted of obstruction of justice for removing boxes of documents from his Toronto offices although he knew investigators wanted them.

Also convicted on the fraud counts were Jack Boultbee, 64, former Hollinger chief financial officer; Peter Atkinson, 60, former Hollinger executive vice president, and Mark Kipnis, former Hollinger corporate counsel.

In its heyday when Black was chairman and CEO, Hollinger International owned the Daily Telegraph of London, the Jerusalem Post, the Chicago Sun-Times and hundreds of U.S. and Canadian community newspapers.

Black, Atkinson and Boultbee were convicted of paying bonuses to themselves without board approval out of the proceeds from the sale of Hollinger-owned newspapers. The money allegedly was disguised as "non-compete payments" - payments made by the buyers to guarantee they would not face competition from the former owners.

Black was acquitted of nine other charges, including racketeering.

Associated Press Writers Dave Carpenter and Don Babwin contributed to this report.
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