Former media mogul Conrad Black left a federal prison Wednesday in central Florida where he's been serving a 6 1/2-year sentence for defrauding investors, a prison official said.
Black had spent two years in the minimum-security facility and walked free hours after U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve in Chicago set his bond at $2 million and ordered him not to leave the country. His attorney Miguel Estrada had said he expected his client to return to his home in Palm Beach.
Prison spokesman Gary Miller confirmed the release, but declined further comment on the former Hollinger International Inc. chairman.
The bond was paid by Black's friend, Roger Hertog. Judge Amy St. Eve ordered Black released pending the outcome of his appeal of his 2007 conviction. She also ordered him to appear before her Friday afternoon in Chicago to go over the terms of his release. Estrada said the Federal Bureau of Prisons issued Black an ID that will allow him to fly to Chicago.
Attorneys for Black — who renounced his Canadian citizenship to become a member of the British House of Lords — had asked that he be allowed to return to a home he owns in Toronto.
Black and three former Hollinger International Inc. executives were convicted of defrauding shareholders out of $6.1 million. One of the prosecutors' arguments was that Black deprived the company of his faithful services as a corporate officer, breaking the so-called "honest services" law.
Black also was convicted of obstruction of justice after jurors saw a video of him carrying boxes of documents out of his offices, loading them into his car and driving off with them. The documents were sought by government investigators.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month limited the scope of the honest services law, leaving it to the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to determine whether to overturn Black's conviction in whole or in part. The appeals court on Monday granted Black's motion for bail as he appeals his fraud conviction.
The high court's ruling didn't affect the obstruction of justice count.
U.S. Attorney's office spokesman Randall Samborn declined to comment on Black's criminal case because the appeal is pending.
Hollinger International once owned the Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Telegraph of London, The Jerusalem Post and hundreds of community papers in the U.S. and Canada.
At the core of the charges against Black was his strategy, starting in 1998, of selling off the bulk of the small community papers, which were published in smaller cities across the United States and Canada.
Black and other Hollinger executives received millions of dollars in payments from the companies that bought the community papers in return for promises that they would not return to compete with the new owners.
Prosecutors said the executives pocketed the money, which they said belonged to shareholders, without telling Hollinger's board of directors.
But Black's lawyers have maintained that federal prosecutors failed to muster adequate evidence that he defrauded anyone or tried to hide key documents.
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