Former media mogul faces court

Conrad Black slipped unseen past dozens of reporters today as he arrived for jury selection at his US racketeering and fraud trial.


“I have no idea how he came in, and I gave no authority for him to come in any other way” than through the front door, Chief US District Judge James Holderman told reporters in Chicago.

A court clerk said the 62-year-old former head of the Hollinger International media empire came in through a separate security entrance.

Hollinger once owned the Chicago Sun-Times , the Toronto-based

National Post , The Daily Telegraph of London and the Jerusalem Post , as well as hundreds of community newspapers.

The Toronto, London and Jerusalem papers have been sold, and the company name has been changed to Sun-Times Media Group.

In the late 1980s he also controlled Australia’s John Fairfax newspaper group.

Black is accused of selling off hundreds of community newspapers and pocketing millions of dollars from the buyers in exchange for promises not to compete in the markets where the newspapers circulated.

Prosecutors say the money should have gone to shareholders.

Black also is accused of using Hollinger money to pay for a vacation on Bora Bora, use of the company plane and most of a $US62,000 ($A79,000) birthday party for his wife, conservative writer, Barbara Amiel Black.

Black has denied any wrongdoing.

Media interest in the trial is expected to be so high that court officials have set aside two overflow courtrooms where proceedings will be shown on closed-circuit television.

Defence lawyers are seeking jurors who will not disapprove of Black’s lifestyle, which includes a Park Avenue condo and an antique Rolls Royce.

“They’re not going to be looking for housewives and union members, they’re going to be looking for stockholders, for aristocrats – just like him,” veteran Chicago trial lawyer, Robin Potter said.

Prosecutors say that if convicted on all counts, Black could be sent to prison for 101 years.

But the judge would decide the sentence, and a much lesser term would be likely.

Also on trial are three executives from Hollinger’s inner circle.

They are Jack Boultbee, 63, an accountant who was Hollinger’s chief financial officer; Peter Atkinson, 59, who was general counsel; and Mark Kipnis, 60, a lawyer who served as corporate secretary in Hollinger’s Chicago headquarters.

Black’s is the latest big trial for US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who last week obtained the perjury conviction in Washington of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

But Mr Fitzgerald will not be on the prosecution team in the courtroom.

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