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Federal appeals court upholds 2 of 4 Conrad Black convictions

The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] on Friday upheld two of four convictions [opinion, PDF; oral argument, MP3] of Canadian-born media mogul Conrad Black [CBC profile; JURIST news archive], one for fraud and one for obstruction of justice. The court held that the other two fraud charges must be dismissed after the US Supreme Court upheld the "honest service" doctrine [18 USC § 1346 text] and ruled that it applied [JURIST report] to Black's case. The appeals court noted that, for sentencing purposes, the "jury's verdict of acquittal does not prevent the sentencing court from considering conduct underlying the acquitted charge, so long as that conduct has been proved by a preponderance of the evidence." Prosecutors indicated that they were pleased with the result [BBC report], despite the two charges being dismissed.

Black 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 Hollinger International and its shareholders [JURIST report] during Hollinger's $2.1 billion sale of several hundred Canadian newspapers. In July 2007, Black was convicted of mail fraud and obstruction of justice and sentenced to 78 months in prison. The court of appeals initially rejected Black's appeal, holding that § 1346 may be applied in a private setting regardless of whether the defendant's conduct risked any foreseeable economic harm to the victim. The Supreme Court granted certiorari last year to determine the scope of the "honest services" clause, and held that Black had properly objected to the jury instructions at trial concerning the honest service doctrine and remanded the case to the circuit court for an opinion consistent with the judgment in Skilling v. United States [JURIST report]. Black is also currently facing charges before the US Tax Court for failure to pay nearly $71 million in taxes [Bloomberg report]. He denies being obligated to pay the taxes because he is not a US citizen.

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