Saturday, March 17, 2007
U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve. narrowed the jury pool to twenty, from which a twelve-person jury with six alternates will be chosen to hear opening arguments on March 19 in the conspiracy, securities fraud, and RICO prosecution of Lord Conrad Black and three former senior executives of Hollinger International (now Sun-Times Media Group). The jury will have a blue-collar tint, according to an article in Canadian Business (here). Black's three co-defendants are John Boultbee, Hollinger's former CFO, former executive vice president Peter Atkinson, and former general counsel Mark Kipnis, and they have been largely ignored in the media's focus on Black. It will be interesting to see if they will present a united front at trial, and whether any (or all) will testify. While Black is reputed to have a rather imperial manner, little is known about the other three defendants, who may be able to connect with the jury better than the former CEO.
The government's key witness, former Hollinger chief operating officer and long-time Black lieutenant David Radler, settled the SEC's civil securities fraud action by agreeing to pay disgorgement (plus interest) of $23.7 million, a $5 million civil penalty, and a lifetime officer/director bar (SEC Litigation Release here). Radler earlier entered a guilty plea, and the SEC settlement may be a means to bolster his credibility by allowing prosecutors to point to the costs of his agreement to cooperate, which will also include a prison term. Of course, given the long relationship between Black and Radler, it's unlikely that either has many secrets the other does not know, so look for Radler's cross-examination to be particularly lively. (ph)