Conrad Black's wife collapses in court as he is sent back to prison

Conrad Black, the Conservative peer convicted of fraud and obstructing justice in the US, was last night ordered back to jail amid dramatic scenes in a Chicago courthouse.

His wife, Barbara Amiel, passed out and had to be revived by medics, as the judge disregarded a 20-minute oration by Black in which he argued that he and his family had already "suffered deeply" over eight years of legal action, including his 29 months in prison.

The former proprietor of The Daily Telegraph was freed last year after successfully persuading the US Supreme Court to limit the scope of potential prosecution arguments in fraud cases, after which two of his four convictions were quashed. Judge Amy St Eve yesterday slashed his sentence from 78 months to 42 months in order to reflect the reduced number of convictions, and his work as a teacher and mentor in prison, but Black will still have to serve almost another year before time off for good conduct.

Black accepted that "a reasonable person could conclude that I am guilty of these two offences. The same reasonable person could also conclude that I have been adequately punished."

The peer's lawyers put his and Ms Amiel's failing health among the arguments for clemency, and Ms Amiel in particular looked frail even as she walked into court. She had put off heart surgery until after her husband's fate was decided, according to court filings.

What they did not argue was that Black should be given credit for accepting responsibility or expressing remorse, and his long and eloquent speech to the judge exhibited all the defiance with which he has approached his travails. He argued again that he had been brought down by corporate governance zealots and vindictive prosecutors, and appeared to cast the whittling of the original 17 counts against him down to two convictions as a great victory.

Expanding his military theme, he went on to express gratitude to an "initially small and intellectually brave group of supporters" which he said "has grown to become an army with people in every state in this country, in every province of Canada and in every region of the UK".

At the height of his powers, the Canadian-born businessman controlled a media empire that was the third-largest in the English-speaking world. He hobnobbed with billionaires in New York and with the Conservative establishment in the UK. Margaret Thatcher was on his corporate advisory board, and in 2001 he was appointed a Tory member of the House of Lords.

But his Chicago-based company, Hollinger International, unravelled after he was ousted in 2004 and it was revealed how he had used the company as a personal piggy bank to fund his lavish lifestyle.

Furious shareholders called it a "corporate kleptocracy" and he was found guilty of skimming money for himself by inserting bogus clauses into corporate deals. The obstruction of justice conviction was sealed by CCTV of the mogul loading boxes of documents into the back of his limousine, in defiance of a regulator's order. "This case is in a different state today, and you are a different person today," Judge St Eve told him, but the remarks she made at his first sentencing in December 2007 still held. "I still scratch my head as to why you engaged in this conduct. Nobody is above the law, not even you, no matter what their stature in life."

Ms Amiel, who had been weeping on occasion throughout the morning-long proceedings, fell sideways in her seat when it was announced her husband would be returning to jail. She was lain on the court bench while medics were called and later walked from the courtroom with friends and marshals on each arm.

Leaving the court building later, with Black holding her tightly by the shoulder, she explained to a reporter: "Too little sleep." Black, in his only remark after the hearing, said he was "not surprised" by the ruling.

Much of the hearing was given over to a discussion of Black's 29 months in the Coleman correctional facility in Florida, which his lawyers said had not only profoundly changed him but where his teaching has profoundly changed the lives of scores of inmates.

At his first sentencing, the defence submitted character references from rich, powerful and famous supporters including Sir Elton John. This time, they added 18 letters from inmates describing him, in the words of his attorney Carolyn Gurland, as a "tutor, teacher, and mentor for countless men". The inmates praised Black for helping them pass the equivalent of high school exams, for offering the best lecture series the prison had ever seen, and even for giving advice on job hunting on the outside. One summarised the peer's advice on interview technique as: "pull your pants up and look appropriate".

Black, wearing a dark suit, blue shirt and red tie, asked to sit after 20 minutes spent standing in front of the judge as the legal arguments went on. Attorney Julie Porter, for the government, accused Black's legal team of exaggerating his conduct in prison and asked the court to consider whether the 18 felon correspondents wanted something from a man they knew to be rich.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone