Conrad Black, victim of the infamous Hollinger Special Committee Report, once faced more than a dozen felony charges, millions of dollars in forfeitures and dozens of years in prison. Today Conrad stands largely victorious, sustaining a libel victory against authors of the Special Committee Report and defeating the bulk of the scurrilous charges brought against him by the federal government. His righteous struggles against the heavy hand of his persecutors has not only vindicated him; it has also given all the people of the United States a fairer interpretation of the often abused Honest Services statute. Conrad’s determination to not roll over for the prosecution brought him and his family much pain, but it brought us all more freedom.
The government, however, did not make this path easy. The prosecution team that filed criminal charges against him was controlled by Patrick Fitzgerald who, according to many, is considered the nation’s most fierce U.S. Attorney. In addition, U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve, who presided over Conrad’s case, was a former assistant U.S. Attorney. Her Honor’s reputation as a judge within Chicago’s legal community greatly reflects her previous position as a former federal prosecutor.
It is obvious that Chicago’s prosecutors have often relied on Honest Services to get convictions. As most of you will recall, former Illinois Governor George Ryan, insurance mogul Mickey Segal and former Cicero Town President Betty Maltese are also victims of overzealous prosecutors abusing the vague statue of Honest Services. To date, Ryan and Segal have been unable to win an appeal in order to earn an early release from their ridiculously long prison sentences. In Ryan’s case, former Illinois Governor James Thompson has been to Hell and back trying to get his client an early release, without any success. Thankfully Conrad Black was able to succeed in reforming the law where even two former Illinois governors have failed. One has to wonder if Patrick Fitzgerald would have relied so heavily on Honest Services if he knew that Conrad would ultimately destroy this powerful tool.