Last week Maclean’s put Conrad Black on its cover and chose him as Canadian newsmaker of 2007. Yesterday in a Chicago court room a judge sentenced Black to six and a half years in prison for fraud and obstruction of justice.
When I was hosting a call-in radio program in Montreal, I worked for Conrad Black who contolled Standard Broadcasting. Invariably in December Black would board his company’s jet in Toronto and fly to Montreal for our Christmas party.
Usually on those occasions I had the opportunity to chat with him — about politics, history, current events. I found him gracious, informed and a man armed with a ferocius vocabulary, as one would expect from the author of three splendid biographies of Maurice Duplessis, Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon.
So I was torn yesterday to learn that Black was going to a U.S. federal prison for nearly seven years. He will be almost 70 when he emerges.
Whom does such a lengthy incarceration help? Certainly not his former company which has been run into the ground by his successors. Nor will the sentence defer Black from offending again. His career as a business tycoon is finished. The only upside to his prison term is that Black will be able to carry on his writing as he undoubtedly will. And for that I think a term of four years would have sufficed.
In prison Black will be cut off from his major lifeline, his e-mail. He’ll be separated from those who love him most. He’ll probably spend the rest of his life in litigation, and he may never set foot in Canada again.
A sad fate for the founder of the National Post and my Christmas party companion so many years ago.
Do you think Black’s sentence was about right or do you think it was too harsh?