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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