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Conrad Black lawyers want harmful testimony tossed, say inclusion is "shameful"

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Conrad Black's lawyer is accusing prosecutors of having such disdain for the former media baron that they're launching a "shameful" smear campaign to influence his resentencing hearing and want the scathing testimony of two prison workers thrown out.

A portrayal of Black in recent affidavits as a haughty aristocrat who shirked tutoring responsibilities and used other inmates as servants while behind bars is "demonstrably false," Carolyn Gurland, one of Black's lawyers, argues in U.S. court filings.

"The notion that Conrad Black is some sort of arrogant elitist was thoroughly debunked at the time of the original sentencing," she said in documents filed to a U.S. Supreme Court in Illinois late Wednesday.

"That it should be trotted out again in the context of this resentencing proceeding as a reason for this Court to discount the factors presented on Mr. Black's behalf — now in the form of suggestions based on innuendo and hearsay from current Justice Department employees — is nothing less than shameful."

In one of the affidavits, a unit manager at the Coleman complex said Black demanded special treatment and gathered an entourage of inmates who acted as his servants.

In another document, an education specialist who supervised Black as a tutor claimed he was a haughty and uninterested mentor who was frequently late and often read or worked on writing what appeared to be a book while he was supposed to be teaching.

"The result is a drive-by disparagement of Mr. Black which reveals nothing but the intensity of the government's dislike for him," Gurland said in the statement.

The accounts were filed by U.S. prosecutors earlier this month and will be considered when Judge Amy St. Eve, who presided over Black's original trial in 2007, hears arguments June 30 on whether Black should return to jail on two remaining convictions.

In the defence documents, Black's lawyers question the prosecutors' motives in obtaining the testimony from the two prison workers, which they argue are at odds with previous statements made from one of the same women, as well as others that lauded his contributions to the community.

Gurland argued that the prosecutors submitted the claims to argue that Black should not get a break at sentencing based on his work at Coleman and to undermine his lawyers' request for a sentence of time served.

"The only open question is why the government is so infused with dislike of Conrad Black or trepidation about the possibility that he may at last experience some of the same leniency that they have agreed to and/or advocated for with respect to every other defendant in this case, that they felt compelled to make the argument at all," Gurland said.

Black's lawyer goes so far as to say the statement by Carrie De La Garza, the education specialist, is false because she had previously made "glowing remarks about Mr.Black's tutoring," in a filing to the probation office. They said those positive remarks were supported by 18 letters from Coleman inmates that extolled Black's tutoring.

"These statements are not reliably sourced as they are made by a woman who either lied in an official (Bureau of Prisons) memoranda for an inmates's file and to a representative of this Court or, more likely, signed a false declaration," Gurland said in the court filing.

She argued that the testimony of case manager Tammy Padgett, who said Black asked another case manager to refer to him as Lord Black on the day he was granted bail and used other inmates as servants, was based on hearsay and taken out of context.

Gurland said Black's request to be addressed with the honorific was made in jest and that other inmates willingly performed "some small physical acts to assist Mr. Black" based on their high opinion of him. Thus, she argued, the affidavits should be thrown out.

Black, who had been serving a 6 1/2-year sentence in the U.S. federal prison, has been freed since last summer after the U.S. Supreme Court curtailed the "honest services" laws used to convict Black of defrauding Hollinger International investors.

An appeals court subsequently reversed two convictions, but upheld two others — on fraud and obstruction of justice. He is scheduled to be resentenced on those charges June 24.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal of those convictions last week, meaning Black won't be cleared of the charges, but could remain free if the judge decides to allow him time served on the counts.

The U.S. Attorney believes Black's original sentence of 6 1/2 years should be reimposed.

Black's empire once included the Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Telegraph of London and smaller papers across the United States and Canada.

The Canadian-born businessman was freed on bail from a Florida prison last year while he appealed his conviction for defrauding investors. He had served 29 months of a 78-month sentence for the original four convictions.

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