Thursday, June 14, 2007

Conrad's Punishment

The trial of Conrad Black is scheduled to wrap up soon. So there’s not a whole lot of time left to consider punishment options for Mr. Black if he should be found guilty.

I stress the word “if”, not so much because the Anglo-American tradition of jurisprudence insists that an accused is innocent until proven guilty but more because I know Lord Black’s predilection for launching libel suits at the drop of a hat.

But let’s just say that the Baron of Crossharbour is found guilty. What then?

The former press baron is reportedly facing a jail sentence of over one hundred years which, even given Mr. Black’s notable perseverance, means he would likely die in prison. That seems overly harsh for an alleged crime involving mere millions of dollars.

I suggest that the presiding judge and the prosecution team do some outside-the-box thinking and come up with a few options for sentencing if (and I cannot stress too much the contingent nature of this speculation) he should be found guilty. Options such as:

Option 1
Just because Conrad Black is allegedly a sanctimonious, pontificating windbag (not my opinion, of course) is no reason to unduly punish him with a life sentence. Lots of not so nice folks get to do community service instead.

Perhaps Mr. Black could be required to work in the newsroom of one of the many papers he financially exploited before selling them off for huge profits. Like Ebeneezer Scrooge, he would be given a chance to see how his former minions live and to change his exploitive ways.

Better yet, why not have Lord Black do daily duty at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter? For a man who allegedly loves to dine on haute cuisine at company expense, it will be punishment enough if he is forced to sup with the peasantry. It may even inspire a touch of humility in the allegedly overbearing baron.

Option 2
On one view of the criminal justice system, punishment is retribution and should make the offender suffer. Sure, 20 or 30 years in prison would not be pleasant for Mr. Black but it wouldn’t be that bad. After all, he could spend lots of time researching and writing those allegedly godawful historical tomes that he so loves.

To ensure Conrad suffers (if, in fact, he is guilty), I suggest he serve a much shorter sentence, 45 days say, but that he do his time with Paris Hilton. Six-and-a-half weeks with Ms. Hilton’s scintillating intellect should have the baron begging for mercy.

Option 3
For the author of such soporific doorstops as “Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Champion of Freedom” and “The Invincible Quest: The Life of Richard Milhous Nixon”, a fitting sentence might be to force Mr. Black to repeatedly read his own works out loud.

Option 4
An effective punishment often involves taking away a prized possession from the alleged offender. In Conrad Black’s case, that would be his peerage. With the cooperation of Queen Elizabeth II, Mr. Black could be stripped of his titles and left to live the rest of his life as a mere commoner.

Option 5
The best solution is often the simplest. Why waste taxpayers’ money on incarcerating Lord Black? If he’s found guilty, simply let him go home and live out his remaining days with his wife, Barbara Amiel. Surely that is punishment enough for any man.

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