Conrad Black set to be jailed

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The Independent US

The disgraced former media baron Conrad Black is expected to report to a Florida prison by 2pm on Monday as inmate number 18330-424 after appearing to lose all hope of at least deferring his prison sentence for committing financial fraud while head of Hollinger International.

Lawyers for Black, once the owner of newspapers that included The Daily Telegraph and The Jerusalem Post, had been hoping to keep him free on bail pending an appeal filed after his conviction in a Chicago court in July and his subsequent sentencing to six and half years behind bars.

The effort was dashed late on Thursday when the United States Court of Appeals ruled that Black must surrender himself on Monday as originally required. His two co-defendants, John Boultbee and Peter Atkinson, who were guilty of lesser charges, will be allowed to stay free on bail.

Since his conviction Black has spent most of his time holed up in his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, with his wife, Barbara Amiel, and a parade of visiting friends. The courts at sentencing forbade him from returning to his native Canada.

He will spend at least four months behind bars until the appeal is heard. If it fails, he will have to complete at least 85 per cent of his sentence before being eligible for parole. He has indicated that he intends to complete a book on his downfall.

In an email message last week to the Sunday Independent in Ireland, Black expressed confidence in his chances of success at appeal, but also served notice that he would not "go quietly" once incarcerated.

He is expected to serve his time at the Coleman Federal Correction Complex, or another low-security prison in Florida.

"If I do go there, they will ask me to teach. I almost always hated teachers, but I guess it's an elite occupation in a prison," Black said in the email. "We are very confident of winning at least part of the appeal, and of sharply reducing time served. My book about this outrage is almost ready, so if I must go, I will not be going quietly. It's like back to boarding school, without ... the tedium and indignity of corporal punishment."

According to Canadian media reports, the Blacks have even hosted a gala evening in Palm Beach. One guest, the Toronto financier Hal Jackman, reported that not much had changed in Black's demeanour but that he had put on a considerable amount of weight since his conviction.

Barbara Amiel, meanwhile, has been seeking solace in shopping. According to a report in The Palm Beach Daily News, she splurged $250,000 on the latest couture collection from Oscar de la Renta.

Andrew Frey, one of the defence lawyers, expressed dismay at Thursday's court ruling, but added. "I am optimistic that we will ultimately prevail on the appeal, as we have what ... are extremely strong grounds for overturning all the convictions."

The omens may not be good. Black's argument that the appeal had a "substantial" chance of success was meant to persuade the Court of Appeals to allow Black to remain free. Clearly the court was not swayed.

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