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Examining Black bail plea

Justice John Paul Stevens on Monday asked the Justice Department to spell out its opposition to a plea by Canadian media mogul Conrad M. Black for freedom while the Supreme Court reviews his criminal conviction for fraud in executive pay.  The Department is to reply by 4 p.m. Friday to Black’s application for bail (Black v. U.S., 08A1063).  The application can be read here; a supplemental appendix on a related development is here.

On May 18, the Court agreed to rule on Black’s challenge (petition, 08-876) to his conviction; also involved were two others convicted along with him in the fraud case — John A. Boultbee and Mark S. Kipnis.  The Court will not rule on the petition until its new Term, starting Oct. 5.  His lawyers estimate that the case will not even be heard by the Justices until November or December.

Black has now served 15 months of a 78-month prison sentence.  Part of his plea for bail is based on the fact that Boultbee, without objection from Justice Department prosecutors, has been granted his freedom while the Supreme Court ponders their appeal.

Black was convicted of obostructing justice; he and the others were also convicted of mail fraud.  That additional guilty verdict, however, should not be enough to justify his remaining imprisoned while Boultbee was allowed to go home to Canada to await the outcome of the appeal, Black’s lawyers argued in their bail plea.

By the time the Court decides the case, the application noted, Black will be 66 years old and, if not granted bail in the meantime, will have been in prison more than two years. If he ultimately gets the conviction overturned, he cannot get back that time, he said.

Boultbee was allowed bail after $500,000 was posted to guarantee his return to the U.S. and to prison if he ultimately loses. Black should be freed, too, and he would be prepared also to post an appropriate amount of security, his lawyers said.