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Radler’s almost out while Black waits for Bush

|Written By Robert Todd

While experts are calling Conrad Black’s request for commutation from U.S. President George W. Bush a long shot at best, the former colleague whose testimony helped land him in jail will soon be up for full parole.

Law Times has learned that David Radler, the former president of Hollinger International Inc. who reached a plea deal with the U.S. government, is up for full parole on Dec. 14. His day parole eligibility took hold Sept. 19, according to National Parole Board spokesman Mark Prieur.

Radler is eligible under the Correctional and Conditional Release Act for accelerated parole review as a first-time federal offender serving time for a non-violent offence, Prieur says in an e-mail. The

provision forces the NPB to release offenders if there is no reason to believe they will commit a violent crime by the time their sentence ends.

Following a submission from the Correctional Service of Canada, the NPB must complete “an initial in-office review of the file” and make an assessment on accelerated parole, says Prieur. If the in-office review doesn’t lead to parole, the matter goes to a hearing.

However, the NPB has not received a submission from the CSC regarding Radler, says Prieur.

Meanwhile, an official from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney confirmed that Black has asked for a commutation of his six-and-a-half-year sentence, a request that could lead to either a reduction or elimination of the former press baron’s jail term. The  application is “pending,” says the official.

“It’s being looked at by the pardon attorney, and eventually the president will make a decision” before his Jan. 20, 2009, departure from the White House, the official says.

The official notes that Black couldn’t have applied for a pardon from Bush, as he would have had to complete his sentence and wait five years.

Radler’s deal saw him agree to plead guilty to one count of fraud in exchange for a fine of US$250,000 and 29 months in jail. He started serving that sentence last February. Prosecutors also agreed not to stand in the way of Radler’s transfer to a Canadian prison, which reportedly took place in September.

The deal helped prosecutors land the conviction of Black and three other executives from Hollinger International. Black was convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice, and began serving his sentence at a Florida jail in March.

Black’s U.S. lawyer, Andrew Frey, says he has no comment on his client’s clemency request, saying he had no involvement in the matter. Black’s Canadian lawyer, Eddie Greenspan, didn’t respond by press time to a request for comment.

Prof. P.S. Ruckman, who teaches U.S. politics at Rock Valley College in Illinois, says Black likely isn’t high on Bush’s priority list. He also notes that Republican presidents have traditionally been quite stingy in handing out pardons, and that Bush granted very few as governor of Texas.

“I think Conrad Black is kind of on a world of his own with this,” says Ruckman. “Of the big-name people out there that are applying for commutations, he’s definitely kind of the weak link, because he hasn’t served that long.”

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