UPDATED 01/13/11 – 2:26 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A federal judge has provided a unique form of ID to convicted media mogul and former Chicago Sun-Times owner Conrad Black while he’s out of prison on bail.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve said Black’s British passport, which he surrendered as part of his bail, has expired. So she has provided a one-page court order to serve as “government-issued identification” that will allow Black to fly within the continental U.S.
Black, convicted in 2007 of swindling his company’s shareholders out of $6.1 million, was set free on bail last July after serving 2 years of a 6 1/2 year sentence. He returned to his Palm Beach, Fla., home after he was released.
A federal appeals court had tossed out two of his fraud convictions following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that limited the use of “honest services” fraud charges that were the basis of those convictions.
Black’s new ID already might have come in handy. The 66-year-old Black is expected in Chicago to attend a Thursday afternoon status hearing before the judge.
That hearing could provide clues about whether Eve is inclined to set Black free for good or send him back to prison.
Black was released last year from a Florida prison while he appealed his conviction for defrauding Hollinger International Inc. investors.
Black, whose media empire once included the Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Telegraph of London and community papers in the U.S. and Canada, arrived at the downtown Dirksen Federal Building in a black sedan. He didn’t talk to reporters as he headed to the courtroom.
An appeals court in October did reverse two of his fraud convictions, citing a June U.S. Supreme Court ruling drastically curtailing “honest services” laws that underpinned part of Black’s case.
At the same time, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals let stand one fraud and one obstruction of justice conviction, concluding they were not affected by the landmark, high-court decision.
The fraud conviction, the judges found, involved Black and others taking $600,000 and had nothing to do with honest services: It was, they concluded, straightforward theft.
In the wake of Black’s mixed success in appellate court, Judge St. Eve could choose to resentence Black on the retained convictions or allow him to stay free based on time served.
Just what action St. Eve will take Thursday isn’t clear.
Black’s attorney, Miguel Estrada, did not return a message Wednesday seeking comment. And the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on what might happen at the hearing.
Judge St. Eve could schedule a date to resentence Black, though defense attorneys may want to delay resentencing until they exhaust their appeals options.
Prosecutors could attempt to retry Black on the overturned convictions. The appeals court discouraged that, however, warning it could throw scarce resources at drawn-out litigation.
The Supreme Court’s ruling drastically scaling back honest services laws offered a lifeline to Black and other public figures convicted using the provisions, including Jeffrey Skilling, the former CEO of disgraced energy giant Enron Corp.
Defense lawyers criticized honest services laws as vague and a last resort of prosecutors when they couldn’t show money changed hands. Watchdogs countered they were key to fighting white-collar and public fraud.
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