Even if a U.S. jury deliberating the fate of Conrad Black decides to acquit him, the toppled media mogul is likely to spend a lot more time in court.
The jury began deliberating on Wednesday on 13 counts of fraud, racketeering, obstruction, and tax violations that could imprison the 62-year-old Black for the rest of his life and drain what remains of his fortune with fines and forfeitures.
On hold until the criminal case concludes are additional lawsuits involving the Canadian-born Black, a member of Britain's House of Lords.
He faces a $542 million damage suit filed against him and other former executives by Hollinger International Inc., the company he once headed that has since been renamed the Sun-Times Media Group. The action accuses them of negligence, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
In addition, the Chicago-based company is footing the bill for Black's defense, but could demand its money back if he is found guilty.
Black is also involved in a number of other suits, including one he filed against the U.S. government over its seizure of some of his assets. He has said if he is acquitted he may file suits of his own related to the case or against those who have written about him.
There are a lot of outstanding lawsuits, so it matters what he says after the verdict is announced, said Black's lawyer, Edward Greenspan, in the lobby of the Chicago courthouse where Black and three former associates have been on trial for the past 15 weeks.
There are also lawsuits involving Toronto-based holding company Hollinger Inc. and Black's one-time private holding company, Ravelston Corp. Ltd. of Toronto, which is in bankruptcy and has pleaded guilty through its Canadian receiver in the criminal case, agreeing to pay a $7 million fine.
OUTCOME A MYSTERY
Meanwhile, the four men and 11 women on the jury -- whittled down by presiding Judge Amy St. Eve to nine women and three men, with three alternates in reserve -- have given no indication which way they are leaning or how long they might take to reach a verdict.
I've been practicing law for 39 years and every time I've said how long the jury would be out, I've been wrong, Greenspan quipped.
Since deliberations began, the jury has requested a chart prepared by prosecutors that lays out the transactions at issue in the case, which the judge agreed to provide.
But the judge refused the jury's request to see a transcript of testimony by a lawyer who described his interviews with Black's three co-defendants as part of Hollinger International's internal investigation. She sent back a note to jurors to remember his testimony as best they could.
During the trial, jurors heard the testimony of some 50 witnesses and lengthy arguments from 10 lawyers. They also reviewed hundreds of documents and e-mails.
A white collar defense attorney not involved in the case said history shows the odds are stacked against Black.
In federal criminal prosecutions, the conviction rate is 95 percent for cases that go to trial, said Roma Theus, a former prosecutor. But Black may have felt he had no other choice, given what he may have been offered in a plea bargain, he added.
A jury analyst and consultant, Wendy Grossman of Trial Partners Inc., noted the jury includes more women than men and said her firm's analysis has found women deciding white collar criminal cases are more likely to convict.
My intuition tells me women tend to feel that if you're accused of using corporate funds as a personal piggy bank, that is going to offend their sensibilities as the people who often have to be in charge of a family budget, Grossman said.
Prosecutors had the last word in the trial, telling jurors to follow the money. Lead prosecutor Eric Sussman focused on the how the executives awarded themselves millions of dollars in tax-free non-competition payments as they sold off billions of dollars worth of Hollinger International's newspaper assets between 1998 and 2001.
Common in the newspaper industry and other fields, non-compete agreements are ostensibly designed to prevent a seller from reentering a market it is leaving. But prosecutors said the buyers did not request the non-compete agreements, or only wanted agreements covering Hollinger International.
Instead, the executives decided to allot compensation for non-compete agreements to themselves or companies they closely controlled, the government said, essentially robbing Hollinger International and its shareholders.
Defense lawyers offered various arguments denying that any fraud occurred. They said the non-compete arrangements were justified, or used as a substitute for money owed to the executives, and maintained the transactions were approved by Hollinger's board of directors and not concealed from its lawyers or its auditors.
Black and one of his co-defendants is also charged in a scheme to abuse company perks, with Black alone charged with racketeering and obstruction of justice. All four men are charged with causing Hollinger International to file false tax returns.