Ex-media tycoon is released from jail

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Former media mogul Conrad Black was released from a federal prison in Miami yesterday after serving about three years for defrauding investors.

Black, whose empire once included the Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post, and small papers across the US and Canada, returned to prison last September to finish his sentence.

A former member of the House of Lords, he was sentenced to more than six years in prison after his 2007 conviction in Chicago, but was released on bail two years later to pursue an appeal that was partially successful.

A judge reduced his sentence to three years and he returned in prison last September. With time off for good behaviour, he has completed his sentence.

Black’s chance to quash his convictions arose in June 2010 when the US Supreme Court sharply curtailed the disputed “honest services” laws that underpinned part of his case.

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago tossed out two of Black’s fraud convictions last year, citing that landmark ruling. But it said one conviction for fraud and one for obstruction of justice were not affected by the Supreme Court ruling.

The fraud conviction, the judges concluded, involved Black and others taking $600,000 and had nothing to do with honest services. It was, they said, straightforward theft.

Black, who received the title of Lord Black of Crossharbour, was known for a grand lifestyle, including a $62,000 birthday party for his wife, a plush apartment on Park Avenue in New York and a trip to the island of Bora Bora.

At the core of the honest services charges against him was his strategy, starting in 1998, of selling off the bulk of the small community papers. Black and other executives received millions of dollars in payments from the companies that bought the community papers in return for promises they would not return to compete with the new owners.

Prosecutors said the executives pocketed the money, which they said belonged to shareholders.