- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) — Conrad Black’s attorney accused prosecutors yesterday of trying to prejudice jurors against the fallen media mogul by focusing on his affluent lifestyle while basing their racketeering and fraud case on the word of a former business partner he described as “a proven liar.”

David Radler is all they’ve got,” lawyer Edward L. Greenspan said as he began his closing argument on behalf of the Canadian-born press lord. “The government doesn’t have a smoking gun because there isn’t one.”

Radler was Mr. Black’s partner for decades as they built the $1 billion Hollinger International newspaper empire, but he has pleaded guilty and agreed to be the government’s star witness in return for a lighter sentence.

Mr. Greenspan said Radler, who is expected to get a 29-month sentence in return for his cooperation, lied to prosecutors before pleading guilty and lied again on the witness stand to make sure that he gets the deal.

Mr. Greenspan said the prosecutors also focused on Mr. Black’s “champagne and caviar and oriental rugs” to bias the middle-class jury against the former chief executive of Hollinger International, whose love of the good life was well-known.

He urged jurors to “treat and judge Conrad Black the way you treat any of your neighbors.”

Mr. Black, former Hollinger Vice Presidents John Boultbee and Peter Atkinson and former corporate counsel Mark Kipnis are charged with stealing more than $60 million that belonged to Hollinger shareholders.

Beginning in 1998, the company began selling off community newspapers across the United States and Canada. Millions of dollars were paid as part of the deal to keep Hollinger from competing with the new owners.

While most of the money went to Hollinger, a substantial portion went to Mr. Black, Radler, Mr. Boultbee and Mr. Atkinson. Prosecutors say the money was rightfully the shareholders’ property and essentially was stolen.

Mr. Greenspan scoffed at the idea that Mr. Black was involved in arranging the so-called noncompete payments and said Radler was the one who made most of the deals.

“The government wants you to believe that David Radler didn’t make a major decision without Conrad Black — the fact is he did,” Mr. Greenspan said.

He said the only evidence was testimony from Radler concerning just four telephone calls.

“Just four phone calls,” Mr. Greenspan said. “Not one memo, not one fact about these calls. Where is the evidence to suggest that Conrad Black directed this?”

Mr. Greenspan opened his argument by pointing out to jurors that no shareholders who deserved the money and thus are the supposed victims in the case had taken the witness stand.

“We’ve been sitting here for 14 weeks — where are these shareholders? Where are these victims?” Mr. Greenspan asked. He acknowledged that prosecutors had played tapes of several investors complaining about Mr. Black.

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