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Supreme Court denies Conrad Black bail request

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday denied bail [opinion, PDF] to Canadian-born media mogul Conrad Black [CBC profile; JURIST news report], leaving him the option of filing a request in district court. The one-page denial was issued by Justice John Paul Stevens [official profile, PDF] in response to Black's recent request for bail pending appeal [JURIST report]. In their request [JURIST report], Black's lawyers argued that Black poses no danger to the community, is unlikely to flee and has a legitimate appeal not brought for the purposes of delay. Additionally, the request points out that co-petitioner John Boultebee was granted bail based on the same "substantial question of law or fact." The US government opposed the request [reply, PDF] on the grounds that a ruling in Black's favor on the question presented is "not likely to result in reversal of all his convictions or a prison sentence shorter than the time it will take the court to issue its decision." Federal law [18 USC § 3143 text] stipulates that a defendant is entitled to bail if the "substantial question of law or fact" is likely to result in reversal, a new trial, a sentence without imprisonment or a reduced jail sentence. In a strongly worded response [reply, PDF] to the government's reply, Black's lawyers emphasized that the only difference between their case and Boultebee's is the additional obstruction of justice charge, arguing that the government cannot carry the burden of proving that the "error in the fraud counts was harmless as to the obstruction conviction."

Black is currently awaiting his appeal to be heard following the Court's recent grant of certiorari [JURIST report] to determine if the "honest services" clause of 18 USC § 1346 [text] applies in mail and wire fraud cases where there is no finding that the defendant "reasonably contemplated identifiable economic harm," calling into question the jury question from the lower court. Black, former chairman of Hollinger International [NNDB profile], originally faced 17 counts of fraud, obstruction of justice, racketeering and tax evasion. He was accused [indictment, PDF] by the US government of diverting more than $80 million from the company and its shareholders [JURIST report] during Hollinger's $2.1 billion sale of several hundred Canadian newspapers. In 2007, Black was convicted [JURIST report] of mail fraud and obstruction of justice and sentenced [JURIST reports] to 78 months in prison. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] initially rejected Black's appeal, holding that § 1346 may be applied in a private setting [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] regardless of whether the defendant's conduct risked any foreseeable economic harm to the victim.

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