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Mogul Conrad Black returns to court for status hearing

Media magnate Conrad Black [CBC profile; JURIST news archive] returned to the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] Thursday for a status hearing before judge Amy St. Eve [official biography]. St. Eve will begin the process of deciding whether to free the Canadian-born newspaper tycoon for time served, or re-sentence him on fraud and obstruction of justice charges. Black was released on bond [JURIST report] in July after a June Supreme Court ruling [opinion, PDF, JURIST report] in Black v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder] constricted the application of the "honest services" doctrine [18 USC § 1346 text] only to cases of bribery and kickbacks. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] then vacated [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] Black's two "honest services"-based convictions, but upheld counts of fraud and obstruction of justice, remanding the case to the Northern District of Illinois for re-sentencing. St. Eve could decide to free Black for time served during his two-year imprisonment, or set a date to determine how much of the remaining years on his original 6 1/2-year sentence he must now serve.

In December, the Seventh Circuit declined [JURIST report] a request by Black for an en banc rehearing to reconsider the two remaining charges. 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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