Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Seth Lipsky: A Head-Scratching Verdict Against Conrad Black - WSJ.com

When all was said and done, the fraud Black stood guilty of involved a gain to him of but $285,000. He has made restitution of $32 million. He has been forced to stand aside while his business empire was reduced to rubble and $250 million or so of his own equity destroyed. And he has incurred tens of millions of dollars in legal fees.

On Friday, Judge St. Eve asked the parties to draft an order for the government to disgorge to Black something like $5 million in principal and interest on funds the government had seized from him in connection with counts on which he'd been convicted, and jailed, in error. So while Judge St. Eve is scratching her head over why Black engaged in the conduct she says he did, even some of his critics are wondering why the prosecutors engaged in the conduct they did.

Black himself was without illusions. The man who has been one of the greatest foreign defenders of America since Lafayette or Tocqueville has sold his American home and told his friends of his sadness that, once he finishes prison, his American life will be over and he will not be allowed to return.

via online.wsj.com


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What's so head-scratching about it?

He stole from, of all people, the rich in, of all places, the USA.

He got caught.

A jury of decent, upright Americans found him guilty, despite a $100 million defence team.

An appeal court upheld the jury's verdict.

The judge sent him to jail.

He got out for a while, but now he has to complete his sentence.

Bubba will be glad to see him back.

Is it all really so hard to understand?

Posted by: Fintan Therman | Jun 29, 2011 12:51:44 PM

"Is it all really so hard to understand?"

For you, apparently, yes.

Posted by: Jonathan | Jun 29, 2011 7:20:28 PM

"Is it all really so hard to understand?"

For you, apparently, yes."

Yes, it is indeed hard to understand why people are astonished that a crook convicted of stealing very large sums of money is sent to jail.

Isn't that what often happens to convicted criminals in the USA?

The only difference is that with the likes of Bubba it happens a lot quicker than it did with His Lardship.

Posted by: Fintan Therman | Jun 29, 2011 11:14:11 PM

Read the linked column. He wasn't convicted of stealing large sums of money. Those charges didn't hold up. He was convicted of obstruction for removing one document from his office against unclear instructions, and for either stealing an implausible few hundred grand from his multi-hundred-$M business empire or on a vague charge of "honest services fraud" -- the jury didn't specify which of these two counts it convicted him on. The jury members were selected for ignorance about Black and about big-business financial and accounting practices, were out of their depth and could not possibly have rendered an informed verdict. Meanwhile the appointed custodian of Black's business empire ran it into the ground, destroying most of its value to shareholders.

The popular argument against Black amounts to, he is a slimy rich guy and deserves whatever he gets. But the facts speak to a weak case that was pursued out of envy and for the benefit of ambitious prosecutors. He should have been left alone.

Posted by: Jonathan | Jun 30, 2011 10:22:04 AM

Wow, here's an American claiming, in effect, that people don't get a fair trial in the USA, the country that is supposed to be encouraging the spread of democracy in the world. To ordinary European people like me, it also seems odd that the amount that he was indisputably convicted of stealing - in the hundreds of thousands of dollars - is dismissed as a bagatelle. Many people in the USA are doing hard time for stealing a tiny fraction of that - and many right-wingers find that just dandy!

For purposes of comparison, one of Black's fellow-peers in the UK, another Tory called Lord Hanningfield, has just been sentenced to nine months in the pokey for fiddling £14,000 (about $25,000) on his expenses. Black has gotten off far too light and the next year or so will be easy for him in the slammer; by now he's probably gotten real good at not dropping the soap.

Posted by: Fintan Therman | Jul 1, 2011 8:35:20 AM

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Posted by: Vibram Five Fingers | Jul 12, 2011 5:52:38 PM