Lawyers 'optimistic' about keeping Black out of prison

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The Independent US

Lawyers for the former newspaper publisher Conrad Black said they will try to keep him out of prison for up to another year as they seek to overturn the fraud convictions and the six-and-a-half year jail term imposed on him this week.

The life peer's legal team are expected to file appeal papers before Christmas. They insist there are multiple grounds to contest his convictions for obstructing justice and three counts of fraud by siphoning $6.1m from a media conglomerate that once included The Daily Telegraph.

In a move likely to anger prosecutors, who called for a term of more than 20 years, it was revealed that a court order will also be applied to allow the Canadian-born businessman to remain outside prison on a $21m bail bond until the end of appeal proceedings.

At his sentencing on Monday, Black, 63, was given three months to prepare for his time in a low-security jail, expected to be the Coleman facility in Florida. He is due to report there on 3 March and in the meantime will be confined to his Palm Beach mansion, three hours' drive to the south.

Andrew Frey, a member of Black's legal team specialising in appeals, saidthe process could last up to a year. Among the grounds being studied is a claim that prosecutors at the trial in Chicago failed to prove his intent to commit the offences. Mr Frey said: "There's no demonstration of criminal intent. There are ample and substantial grounds for appeal. We are reasonably optimistic.

"We are still in the process of studying the grounds but the most important of them is that the government failed to show proof of the mental elements of the crime. We don't think there's any evidence of any crime."

Although the final decision on where Black will serve his sentence will rest with the American Federal Bureau of Prisons, the conditions even at a low-security facility will be a rude shock to a man whose expensive tastes were repeatedly underlined during his trial, which ended in July.

Black, 63, is likely to have to share a room or dormitory with fellow inmates and wash in a shower room shared between up to 90 prisoners. Most of his fellow convicts will be serving time for drug-related offences and petty theft.

The sentencing provided an opportunity for Black's Canadian lawyer to express his frustration with fellow defence attorneys and the peer's wife, Barbara Amiel. Edward Greenspan complained there was "resentment from the word go" that he went to Chicago to conduct his client's case and he was "not a member of [his colleagues'] old boys' club".

He also said Ms Amiel "insinuated herself" into the case. He said: "It was an exceptionally tense time without her there, let alone with her there. We had to focus on the job at hand irrespective of her moods."