I share with Mark Steyn the belief that the trial of Conrad Black and his associates was a travesty, and so today's jury verdict in which he was found guilty of three of the thriteen charges is dispiriting:
There will be recriminations a-plenty over what was just announced on the 12th floor in Chicago. Conrad Black was found NOT GUILTY on racketeering, NOT GUILTY on tax fraud, NOT GUILTY on the CanWest scheme, NOT GUILTY on Bora Bora, the Park Avenue apartment and Barbara's birthday party, NOT GUILTY on the individual non-competes on US newspaper sales.
He has been found GUILTY in just two narrow areas - "obstruction of justice" re the security camera footage of him removing boxes from 10 Toronto Street, and three "mail fraud" counts relating to the APC non-compete agreement, in which (as the government argued) Black and Radler paid Black and Radler not to compete with Black and Radler. As I argued here and here, those were always the easiest charges to shoot for if you wanted to convict on something. It speaks very poorly for Black's legal representation that the best argument against the APC charges was made by David Radler and the best argument against the obstruction count was made to me over a cup of tea by Barbara Amiel.
The government alleged three schemes - the "US scheme", the "CanWest scheme", the "perks scheme" - and upgraded them to racketeering, and threw in tax fraud. They lost on racketeering and tax. They lost outright on two-thirds of the schemes. And on the remaining scheme - the "US scheme" - they lost on everything but the APC non-compete fee. Yet, absent successful appeals, four men could be spending the rest of their working lives in jail. The US Attorney's office might usefully adopt as its motto the IRA's message to Mrs Thatcher after the Brighton bombing, "You have to be lucky every time. We only have to be lucky once."
The remaining three defendants, including the clearly innocent Kipnis, were found guilty of three charges each.
This is another black day for justice, courtesy of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.