Conrad Black has always been something of a lone wolf in the saga surrounding Hollinger International Inc., lashing out publicly at critics and aggressively taking on the legal system while his co-defendants remained largely out of sight.
But now Lord Black is truly in a class by himself - he is the only Hollinger defendant still behind bars in the United States.
A few weeks ago the U.S. Bureau of Prisons quietly released co-defendant Peter Atkinson from a federal jail in Pennsylvania. Mr. Atkinson, 62, is believed to be in a prison in Ontario and will likely be released on parole soon. "There are things in the works," said a friend who asked not to be identified for fear of jeopardizing Mr. Atkinson's case.
Another defendant, John Boultbee, was released on an appearance bond last month and is already home with his family in Victoria, his lawyers confirmed. Prosecutors did not oppose Mr. Boultbee's request to be released pending a review of the convictions by the U.S. Supreme Court, which could take a year.
Defendant Mark Kipnis received no jail time for his conviction and runs a sign business near Chicago. And David Radler, who pleaded guilty and testified against the others, spent less than a year in jail and is back running his newspaper business in Vancouver.
Mr. Atkinson, once Hollinger's chief legal counsel, has been in a different position from the others. During the initial internal investigation at Hollinger in 2003, he was one of the first senior executives to co-operate and he paid back much of the money he received illegally. He was, however, found guilty of fraud by a jury in Chicago with the others in 2007 and sentenced to 24 months in prison, the shortest sentence in the case.
Last fall, Mr. Atkinson declined to join Lord Black, Mr. Boultbee and Mr. Kipnis in the appeal to the Supreme Court, preferring to take his chances on getting transferred to a prison in Canada and possibly released. If the others are successful in having their convictions overturned, Mr. Atkinson will be out of luck and his conviction will stand.
While Mr. Atkinson is on is way to freedom, Lord Black has had less luck getting out of jail.
He has made several unsuccessful attempts to be released on bail pending various appeals, including the current review by the Supreme Court. He launched another bid last month but prosecutors have put up a strong fight, arguing that Lord Black is in a unique position because he was the only defendant convicted of obstruction of justice, which carries a longer jail term. Lord Black received a 78 month sentence for obstruction of justice and 60 months for each of three fraud charges, all served concurrently.
Lord Black's lawyers have argued that it is unfair to deny him bail given that Mr. Boultbee has been released. They suggested in court filings that if the Supreme Court review is successful and the fraud charges are dismissed, Lord Black would not serve much time for the obstruction of justice count. A hearing on the request is set for July 24 in Chicago before U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve.