Jail looms for newspaper baron Black

Black's situation is more complicated for a number of reasons.

Prosecutors say he should get more time in prison because he was the mastermind of the scam, that the loss was greater than $20 million and he tried to obstruct the investigation. While he was convicted of crimes that resulted in a $6 million loss, prosecutors say the sentencing ought to take account of all $32 million that they say was pocketed by Black and his co-defendants.

Black's hopes of getting a lighter sentence got a boost recently from the pre-sentence report ordered by U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve. The report, prepared by the government's probation office, clashed sharply with prosecutors on a key point — exactly how big a loss to Hollinger International should be blamed on Black.

Defense attorneys, who won Black acquittal on nine of the 13 counts against him at trial, have recently brought in Jeffrey B. Steinback, best known as a plea bargain specialist. Black has also hired Harvard professor Allen Dershowitz to help with the appeal.

However much legal muscle he brings in, Black will serve time. A key question is where.

If he tries to serve time in Canada, prosecutors may say that he gave up his Canadian citizenship to enter the British House of Lords. As for an American prison, it isn't clear that he will be assigned to the kind of minimum-security camp a non-violent corporate executive might expect.

Wherever he goes, Black must work and there are no executive jobs. Duties include washing windows, swabbing and buffing the floors, cleaning the toilets and picking up cigarette butts.

The pay is the standard Bureau of Prisons rate: 12 cents an hour.

Brian Stewart, a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. correspondent who has known Black since they were teenagers, said his friend, a convert to Catholicism, can draw on "a deep well of faith."

"He tends to have an optimistic outlook, he has a lot of intellectual interests and he's pretty determined to be a survivor," Stewart said.

Contrary to the notion that only the high and the mighty count with Black, Stewart said his friend has insatiable curiosity about what just plain folks think.

On a 1964 trip to this country, he recalled, Black loved to talk with gas station attendants, waitresses — even a cop who pinched him for speeding.

"He still quotes them," says Stewart. "He doesn't just quote Lord Carrington. He can quote the state trooper who gave him a traffic ticket."

Little has been heard from Black since his trial. Through his attorney, he declined an interview request. Stewart and Jonas said he has remained cool while awaiting sentencing at his estate near Palm Beach, Fla.

Black did surprisingly turn up on Canadian television demonstrating how to press a maple leaf between two pieces of wax paper with a hot iron — should viewers find themselves in a place without maple trees. He also turned to the camera at one point and smilingly told viewers: "You can call me Connie."

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