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Conrad Black Judge Won't Recall David Radler

Wednesday, 06 June 2007 12:00 AM

CHICAGO -- The judge presiding over Conrad Black's criminal fraud trial refused a request from his lawyers on Wednesday to bring back to the stand and try to further discredit the star witness against the former media baron.

Judge Amy St. Eve of the U.S. District Court said she saw no reason to recall David Radler, Black's business partner of 30 years, who turned government informant, pleaded guilty and now faces jail time.

Radler testified last month over a two-week period as prosecutors tried to show that he and Black worked closely together in orchestrating a scheme that allowed the two to eventually steal $60 million from Hollinger International Inc., the media giant they had built.

But defense lawyers made Radler admit on the stand that he had lied in the past and suggested that his word still could not be trusted.

Radler pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in exchange for a 29-month prison sentence and an agreement to testify against Black and his three co-defendants.

During Radler's testimony Black's Canadian-based lawyer Edward Greenspan said his plea agreement would set him free after only six months in jail, perhaps spent at a prison with a "golf course therapy program" near his home in Vancouver.

"You know that anyone who gets three years or less for a nonviolent crime (in Canada) is out in six months?" Greenspan asked.

"I did not know that ..." Radler replied.

"Fine, I'll send you a bill," Greenspan quipped at that time.

But in arguing that Radler be brought back, Black's lawyers said they found out later that Radler had hired a lawyer familiar with Canadian parole guidelines and probably knew he faced only six months in prison.

In her ruling on Wednesday, St. Eve told the defense that she was rejecting "your desire to impeach him further" on matters "that you could have discovered much earlier."

She added that she thought Greenspan's "cross-examination (of Radler) was effective on this point" as it stood.

St. Eve also refused to declare a mistrial for one of Black's co-defendants, Mark Kipnis, who was general counsel for Chicago-based Hollinger International. Kipnis' motion charged that prosecutors, in their opening arguments, had overstated his role in allegedly bilking funds from the corporation and had not backed it up with evidence.

Had she granted the request, Kipnis would have walked free immediately.

Kipnis faces charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion, but he is considered to have a less direct role in the accused scheme compared to the other three men on trial. Prosecutors contended he helped Black and his associates steal from the company, but his lawyer elicited testimony from Radler that $150,000 in bonuses Kipnis received were fair pay for legal work that had saved Hollinger International money.

The judge told Kipnis' lawyer that he had very effectively demonstrated to the jury in an earlier cross-examination of Radler that the money Kipnis received was done for legitimate work and not directly related to the scheme, yet she refused to grant the mistrial.

St. Eve said she was "very surprised by that testimony" and watched how the jury reacted to it. She also said prosecutors had anticipated what the testimony would be and had not unfairly characterized Kipnis.

The judge has previously rejected other requests for mistrials from defendants in the case. Her ruling on Wednesday cast doubt on whether she would look favorably on pending requests to dismiss all the charges from Kipnis and the other three defendants that were filed after the government rested its case. Such motions to dismiss are common and usually fail, and the judge has indicated her doubts about only a few counts.

With the trial in its 12th week, Wednesday's hearing was held to address motions without the jury present because defense lawyers were unable to schedule witnesses for the day. The case may go to the jury in two or three weeks.

The 62-year-old Black, a Canadian-born member of Britain's House of Lords, is charged with racketeering, mail and wire fraud, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. If convicted, he faces up to 101 years in prison, millions in fines and $92 million in forfeitures.

Three co-defendants face lesser charges but all four are accused of defrauding Hollinger International, now known as the Sun-Times Media, in the course of selling hundreds of newspapers and other media properties the company once owned.

In testifying for the prosecution, Radler, a Canadian, has described how money flowed from the sale of newspapers and other properties he and Black sold off. That included millions of dollars in non-competition payments the government says Black and the others pocketed instead of sending to Hollinger International for the benefit of its shareholders.

Non-competition payments are designed to prevent a seller from reentering the same market. But Black and the others are accused of using part of the numerous payments as tax-free bonuses for themselves.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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CHICAGO -- The judge presiding over Conrad Black's criminal fraud trial refused a request from his lawyers on Wednesday to bring back to the stand and try to further discredit the star witness against the former media baron. Judge Amy St. Eve of the U.S. District Court...
Wednesday, 06 June 2007 12:00 AM
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