(CN) – The Supreme Court declined to revisit the convictions against Conrad Black after finding last year that the so-called honest-services law had been improperly applied to the media baron.
Black, a Canadian-born member of Britain’s House of Lords, was convicted in 2007 along with three former colleagues. The co-conspirators were charged with pocketing $6.1 million from Hollinger International’s shareholders through bogus transactions disguised as “management fees.”
Black allegedly manipulated the company’s financial reports to cover the scheme.
Two fraud charges against Black involved agreements with Hollinger subsidiaries not to compete with local papers after they split from Hollinger.
Hollinger subsidiary APC paid Hollinger executives $5.5 million for their promise not to compete with APC’s Mammoth Lake, Calif., community newspaper. Black also received $600,000 from subsidiaries Forum and Paxton through a similar agreement, though no contracts were ever drawn.
The Hollinger executives tried to conceal the schemes by omitting the dubious transaction from their financial reports. They later admitted to having sought private gain, but claimed to have done so at the expense of the Canadian government.
The 7th Circuit upheld the convictions in June 2008, but Black appealed to the Supreme Court, which found the so-called honest-services law used to convict Black too broad. That law requires proof of bribery or kickbacks, according to the high court.
On remand in November 2010, the Chicago-based federal appeals court reversed two convictions for honest-services fraud, but upheld two other convictions for fraud and obstruction of justice.
Nevertheless, the court rejected Black’s argument for a retrial, which he said was warranted since the submission of the honest-services charge to the jury had contaminated the obstruction-of-justice charge. Black had been caught on video removing 13 boxes of documents under investigation from his office.
The circuit panel reversed the convictions and sentences stemming from the APC scheme, but upheld the fraud conviction involving the Forum and Paxton deal and the obstruction conviction.
Co-defendants in the case include former Hollinger executives Peter Atkinson and John Boultmee, and the company’s attorney, Mark Kipnis.
Hollinger International, once the world’s third-largest publisher of English-language newspapers, owned the Chicago Sun-Times, the Daily Telegraph and several smaller local newspapers.