Friday, July 20, 2007

Fly Away Home

As far as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is concerned, Conrad Black's signed agreement to not fight extradition from Canada is not worth the paper it's printed on. The document would not be enforceable under Canadian law.

In addition, the Palm Beach property that Mr. Black used as collateral for his bond was not always current on its mortgage payments. That implies that the valuable parcel could be lost to foreclosure, and what security would the courts have then? The convict would jump bail, losing nothing but what was already lost. Besides, said convict might have transferred all sorts of assets to his wife's name, hidden from view, so that when he skipped town he would have a soft cushion to land on.

Judge Amy St. Eve took it all into consideration in reaching her decision about Conrad Black's next place of residence. Mr. Fitzgerald may have liked nothing better than to watch the former media baron be handcuffed and led away from the Dirksen Federal Building in shame, to take up occupancy of a cozy cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center near downtown Chicago. Mr. Black is keen to return to Canada, to spend some time at home. The judge has found the middle ground between a cell and Toronto.

Can't enforce a non-waiver of extradition? Then Mr. Black will have to remain in the US, where no one cares at all about his peerage. He has a choice, between Chicago where former Sun-Times employees loathe him, or southern Florida, where his neighbors might not be quite so friendly as they used to be.

The once lavish lifestyle is going to be crimped as well. Under an agreement with Canada, Mr. Black's assets are frozen, although a pending sale of some Canadian newspapers could provide about $7 million in walking around money.

No matter where he goes, the convictions will follow Mr. Black, hovering overhead as a blot on his character. It's only a matter of time, however, before a literary agent comes calling, and a book is in the works, and a comfortable advance paid out. Celebrity books are hot, hot, hot, even if the celebrity is famous for being infamous.

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