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Monday, July 19, 2010

FT: Conrad Black set to be freed on bail, use of vague "honest services" law questioned

The Financial Times:

Lord Black, the Canadian-born peer and former publishing magnate who was convicted of fraud, could be released from a Florida prison on bail within days pending an appeal.

The decision to release Lord Black by a three-judge appeals court panel follows a sweeping ruling by the US Supreme Court in June that found prosecutors wrongly applied the the so-called “honest services” law in their case against the former media executive.Lord Black, the Canadian-born peer and former publishing magnate who was convicted of fraud, could be released from a Florida prison on bail within days pending an appeal.

The decision to release Lord Black by a three-judge appeals court panel follows a sweeping ruling by the US Supreme Court in June that found prosecutors wrongly applied the the so-called “honest services” law in their case against the former media executive. [...]

The ruling represents a blow to the US Department of Justice, which had argued against a request for bail while the case was re-examined by an appeals court in light of the Supreme Court ruling.

The decision to release Lord Black, even temporarily, underlines the impact that the Supreme Court ruling will have, not only in the case against the British peer, but in other high-profile, white-collar cases in which prosecutors convicted individuals based on “honest services” fraud charges.

The ruling raises the stake for the DoJ in its handling of the Enron case. The court ruled that prosecutors wrongly used the honest service law against Jeffrey Skilling, the convicted former head of Enron. But the high court did not advocate or suggest the mistake should necessarily lead to a reversal of Mr Skilling’s conviction.

The justices agreed with critics that said the DoJ’s use of the honest services law was too vague, and should be limited to instance of bribery.

(h/t Lindy)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on July 19, 2010 | Permalink

Comments

Considering that Black's trial was a thinly disguised show trial to begin with, this is good news. Aside from the security cameras from another country showing Black "suspiciously" retrieving his own property (which the court had full access to) from his Canadian office, I don't recall ever seeing his "crimes" articulated in any coherent manner. Benefiting from non-competes isn't illegal unless a federal prosecutor apparently declares it so.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-07-20 9:59:57 AM



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