Image: Conrad Black
Paul Beaty  /  AP file
Black was convicted July 13 of swindling the Hollinger International newspaper empire he once ran out of millions of dollars.
By
updated 7/19/2010 7:16:15 PM ET 2010-07-19T23:16:15

Jailed former newspaper magnate Conrad Black was granted bail on Monday by a federal appeals court, weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court kicked his 2007 fraud conviction back to a lower court.

The British baron and three other former executives from the media empire Hollinger International were convicted of swindling the company's shareholders out of $6.1 million.

It was not immediately clear when Black would be released from the federal prison in Florida. The conditions of his release would be determined by U.S. District Court judge in Chicago, according to an order from the three-judge panel.

Last month, the Supreme Court weakened the "honest services" law that was central to Black's fraud conviction. The justices left it up to a lower court to decide whether the conviction should be overturned.

Black, who has served more than two years of a 6 1/2-year sentence at a low-security federal prison in Florida, was also 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.

A call to Black's attorney, Miguel Estrada, was not immediately returned. A federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman said Black, 65, remained in prison on Monday and it was unclear when he might be released.

Before the Supreme Court ruling, prosecutors had said Black should remain in prison because the high court's decision wouldn't affect the obstruction of justice count. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago said officials would have no comment.

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.

The "honest services" law has been criticized by defense lawyers as the last resort of prosecutors in corruption cases that lack the evidence to prove that money is changing hands. It also has been called vague, subjecting people to prosecution for mistakes and minor transgressions in the business and political worlds. But watchdogs consider it key to fighting white-collar and public fraud.

The Justice Department said at the time of the Supreme Court ruling that prosecutors would continue to urge that honest services convictions for Black and others be upheld.

The court's decision made headlines all over the world, in large part because of the names of those sitting in prison as a result of the law, including Black, former Enron boss Jeffrey Skilling, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and California Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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