Monday, March 3, 2008

Conrad Black begins his six and a half year prison sentence

Conrad BlackClutching his wife's hand, fallen tycoon Conrad Black today left his palatial Florida mansion to start a six and a half year prison sentence in rather less grand surroundings.

The former Telegraph owner sat in the back of a blacked-out SUV, holding hands with wife, journalist Barbara Ameil, as he was driven out of his $28 million home in Palm Beach at 9am for the three hour drive to the largest jail in the United States.

The jet-setting millionaire swapped his 21,000sq ft home, which has seven bedrooms, eight baths, a tunnel for beach access and 300 feet of ocean frontage, to become inmate number 18330-424 in a shared cell at the Coleman Federal Correction Complex, 40 miles northwest of Orlando.

Black, 63, will have a roommate, and drug dealers will be among the white-collar criminals with whom he will be sharing time at the prison, which holds 2,500 inmates.

Black, who will have to rise at 6am and work between the hours of 7.30am - 3pm, will be assigned basic jobs such as yard work, kitchen and cleaning duties, for which he'll receive a pittance.

At the peak of his career, it is estimated Black made anywhere between $12,000 and $40,000 an hour.

On the eve of his incarceration, the disgraced Lord Black of Crossharbour said he was prepared to continue to "fight the good cause" and conceded that although the prospect of going to jail "is not great, it's not the end of the world."

During a telephone interview with a Canadian newspaper just hours before his departure, he continued to protest his innocence and said the prospect of going to jail didn't frighten him.

"This is not a scary place," he said. "There's no violence there. I expect it to be somewhat boring."

Of his accusers, the historian and author quoted Winston Churchill, saying: "They will have their fleeting moment of brutish triumph," adding: "It's no real triumph for them; it's a complete travesty of justice. It doesn't bother me because it won't last long."

Black is hopeful his convictions on three counts of mail and wire fraud and one on obstruction of justice will be overturned on appeal. His case is expected to be heard in June.

He said until then, he's prepared to do his time. "It's not the least bit stigmatizing," he said, when asked about his thoughts as he prepares to begin serving his six-and-a-half-year sentence.

"This bourgeois theory that it's a frightful blotting of the ledger is a lot of nonsense. It didn't happen to Martha Stewart. And besides, I am innocent. If I'd actually done anything illegal, I wouldn't contest it, I would repent it."

On a lighter note he added, "It's a hell of a way to lose weight, but I'll lose weight."

By Owen Williams, Mar 03 2008 © Copyright 2008 - Showbiz Spy

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