Former Chicago Sun-Times publisher F. David Radler was given 29 months in prison and a $250,000 fine Monday for his role in stealing millions of dollars from Hollinger International shareholders.
The No. 2 man in the once-powerful Hollinger newspaper empire also received a sense of relief.
"This is the first day of the rest of his life," Radler's attorney, Anton Valukas, said after the sentencing hearing.
Radler, 65, pleaded guilty to fraud in September 2005 and testified earlier this year against his longtime business partner and head of Hollinger, Conrad Black, in return for a lenient sentence.
"I'm sorry for what I've done," Radler said in court. He apologized for the suffering he caused his family and said he had "tried to lead a life that was honorable" but had made "mistakes."
It was a stark contrast to Black, who remained defiant when sentenced last week to 6 1/2 years in prison, telling the same court that Hollinger's stock was doing well when he was removed as chairman and suggested "the evaporation of $1.8 billion in shareholder value" was the fault of his successors.
U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve told Radler on Monday that he had breached his duty, noting he "took a lot of money from Hollinger International at great expense to the company and the shareholders." But the judge also acknowledged his cooperation with prosecutors and the millions he has paid in restitution.
About $61 million has been paid by Radler or companies he has been associated with, including $53 million Radler has paid personally, Valukas said.
"You certainly have tried to right your wrongs," St. Eve told Radler, who must begin serving his sentence Feb. 25.
St. Eve said she would recommend a Pennsylvania prison. But Radler also is eligible to apply to serve his time in Canada, which is his preference, Valukas said. There, sentences for nonviolent offenders often are cut down further.
Black and Radler built Hollinger from scratch, starting with a tiny, money-losing, English language paper in French-speaking Canada, the Sherbrooke Record. In time, the company became an international colossus.
Black, Radler and three co-defendants were charged with siphoning money out of the company through payments made by buyers of Hollinger International community papers in return for promises not to compete with the new owners. Prosecutors said such payments should go to shareholders.
Radler pleaded guilty and made his deal with prosecutors while Black and his other co-defendants, Canadian executives Peter Atkinson and Jack Boultbee and Chicago attorney Mark Kipnis, demanded a jury trial.
They originally were charged with swindling shareholders out of an estimated $60 million.
In the end, Black was acquitted of nine of the counts against him, including racketeering, and convicted of siphoning off $6 million through bonuses disguised as such "non-compete" payments. Black also was convicted of obstruction of justice for removing documents from his offices.
Although prosecutors had sought much more than 6 1/2 years in prison for Black, St. Eve said his sentence should be closer Radler's, calling the men "equally culpable."
Atkinson was sentenced last week to two years in prison and fined $3,000. Boultbee was sentenced to 27 months and fined $500. Kipnis was placed on probation for five years with six months of house arrest; he was also ordered to perform 275 hours of community service. The three men were also ordered to join Black in paying $6.1 million in restitution.