Emmett Tyrrell
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WASHINGTON -- Conrad Black is back in Canada. He controlled the third-largest string of English-language newspapers in the world before he became entoiled with the Unites States Department of Justice. For his friends, it was a terrible loss. We missed him, and we have missed his newspapers. He made the Telegraph papers in London a beacon of civilized discourse and a sound source of news. They provided better information on the high-jinks of Bill Clinton than any news source here, save the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and, ahem, The American Spectator. The Telegraph papers were great newspapers and his other publications, for instance, Spectator of London, were eminently civilized too. They still are, though they miss Conrad's journalistic touch.

He got in a corporate imbroglio that became a nightmare for him. My comrade in arms, Seth Lipsky of the New York Sun, understands the ins and outs of it far better than I and claims Conrad was innocent. Who am I to doubt Lipsky? He knows the law. He studied the charges against Conrad, and has pronounced him blameless. Everything Lipsky says has the ring of truth to it.

Conrad's problems began with minority shareholders in his company, Hollinger International, complaining about his expenses. Rather imprudently, Conrad submitted himself to their investigations. They invited one Richard Breeden in as special investigator eight years ago. Breeden proved to be a man with an ax to grind. The product of his ax work was to charge Conrad with stealing more that $400 million from the corporation. By the time federal prosecutors took over the case, that number was down to $80 million in charges. In court, the figure was whittled down to $60 million. Finally, after years of dickering, Conrad, at great expense to the government, to Hollinger and to himself, stood guilty of a fraud charge of but $285,000.

Through it all, Conrad went to trial on 13 counts of which the jury acquitted him of nine counts. The most serious of those 13 counts were charges of racketeering and tax evasion. Conrad beat them all. The jury convicted Conrad on obstruction for obeying an eviction order from Hollinger and taking his property from his erstwhile office. Tom Wolfe summed up the jury's behavior: "They had to get him for something." It is a long way from $400 million to $285,000.

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Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
 
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