Judge asked to consider Black's 'contempt'

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The Independent Online

A BBC interview with Lord Black of Crossharbour, the former newspaper baron, shows his "stunning lack of remorse" and should be taken into account when he is sentenced for fraud and obstruction of justice, prosecutors say.

The US attorney's office has provided court officials with a copy of last week's Today programme in its latest court submissions, along with a selection of Black's recent emails to journalists, in which he contends that the case against him was "rubbish" and "nonsense".

"Black has consistently demonstrated contempt for the judicial process and the jury's verdict," the prosecutor Eric Sussman argues. "To this day, Black maintains that the criminal justice system is 'essentially a substitute for a wealth-redistribution policy'. Indeed, Black's conduct makes clear that he would engage in the very same conduct again if given the opportunity."

The judge, Amy St Eve, will sentence the former proprietor of The Daily Telegraph next Monday, and can consider lack of remorse when making her decision. Prosecutors want Black to spend up to 24 years in jail, although a probation service report recommended a term nearer to four years.

In public comments outside court at his trial in the spring, in conversation with journalists and on a publicity campaign for his biography of Richard Nixon, Black has kept up a belligerent commentary on the US judicial system. On the Today programme last Friday, Black described his legal travails as a "persecution" and a "war of attrition" that he had already three-quarters won. In July, a Chicago jury threw out nine charges and convicted him on four, and he plans to appeal.

Black's newspaper empire, controlled through a US-listed company, Hollinger International, was once the third largest in the English-speaking world. He was ousted as chairman in 2004 after an investigation by shareholder representatives found that he and his associates had used Hollinger as if it were a personal piggy bank, using the company to fund his lavish lifestyle and looting it of $400m. The jury found that between $6m and $32m of that money was taken in outright fraud. How much exactly will be debated at the sentencing hearing.

Black is planning to speak in court, his lawyers say, in a bid to sway the judge into a more lenient sentence. Defence attorneys have submitted character references from around 100 friends and acquaintances, including the Tory politicians William Hague, Boris Johnson and Lord Tebbit, and the pop star Sir Elton John.