By Dave Carpenter
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
CHICAGO, July 10 -- The jury in the racketeering and fraud trial of fallen media tycoon Conrad M. Black told the judge Tuesday that it was unable to reach a verdict. Jurors were called back into the courtroom and told to continue their deliberations.
A note read to the court by U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve said: "We have discussed and deliberated on all the evidence and are still unable to reach a unanimous verdict on one or more counts. Please advise."
The note, sent during the ninth day of deliberations, was signed by the jury foreman and ended with: "P.S. We have read the jury instructions very carefully."
Black, 62, is accused of swindling the Hollinger International newspaper chain out of more than $60 million. He faces 13 criminal counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud and racketeering. The trial, which included three other defendants, began March 20.
After St. Eve read the note, Ronald S. Safer -- an attorney for the defense -- said the judge should accept that the jury could not reach a verdict. Safer said the jury had been "extremely careful" and had deliberated for nine days.
Lead prosecutor Eric H. Sussman, said the actual time of deliberation was about seven full days and urged the judge to tell the jurors to continue deliberations. He also raised the possibility of giving the jurors the option of returning a partial verdict that includes the decisions they may have reached.
St. Eve said the jury has paid "incredible attention" throughout the trial. "I do think there is some benefit to bringing the jury back into the courtroom and reinstructing them," she said.
With the jurors back in court, St. Eve reread instructions in which they were told they must make every reasonable effort to reach a unanimous decision. The jurors then returned to their deliberations.
Black, former Hollinger vice president Peter Y. Atkinson, 60, and chief financial officer John A. Boultbee, 64, are charged with stealing more than $60 million from the company. The money was paid in return for agreements not to compete with newspapers that Hollinger sold from 1998 to 2001 for about $3 billion, prosecutors said. Former general counsel Mark S. Kipnis, 59, is charged with helping the three executives steal the money.
Prosecutors also accused Black of billing the company $42,000 for his wife's birthday party, swindling the company in a $3 million Park Avenue apartment sale and taking the corporate jet on a two-week vacation to Bora Bora in French Polynesia. Black's attorneys said that the bills were justified business expenses and that he paid his fair share in the apartment deal.