Yesterday, Conrad Black’s longtime associate and now arch-enemy-in-the-witness-box, F David Radler, took to the stand for day two of cross-examination. Was he any good? Not so much.

Prosecution’s star witness does good job of prosecuting himself.

Phil Rosenthal, Chicago Tribune: Through his second day of testimony in the federal fraud trial of press baron Conrad Black, [star witness Radler], the former Chicago Sun-Times publisher, has done a decent job convincing jurors that someone deserves to be behind bars. Unfortunately for prosecutors, it’s not necessarily Lord Black but Radler himself, and Radler has already agreed to a 29-month sentence in exchange for a guilty plea and cooperation in the case against the longtime business associate with whom he made many millions … One would think that the feds, who indicted Radler and convinced him to turn on his old pals back in 2005, would have had time to explain to him how the process works, driving home what they need and advising him on how best to convey it. As is, without a smoking gun document so far, alleged misdeeds risk getting lost in byzantine business dealings so complex that MBAs would be hard-pressed to find their way through.

Oops. Radler’s non-compete boo boo.

Peter Worthington, Toronto Sun: [On Wednesday] the most damning admission winkled out by Greenspan referred to Radler’s testimony to prosecutor Eric Sussman on Tuesday that he only learned about non-compete payments from Atkinson in the $3.5-billion sale to CanWest of the National Post and other papers, and decided to use them in sales of American papers he negotiated. Greenspan got Radler to admit that more than 20 years ago when he had the reputation of being America’s “most formidable newspaper negotiator,” buying papers at a rate of one per week, that he insisted on non-compete agreements with those selling to Hollinger. Some 133 newspapers were purchased by Radler, who insisted on non-compete agreements to prevent the sellers from starting new papers in the same area … Yet Radler is on record saying he’d never thought of that gimmick until the CanWest sale. Hmm. Considering that non-competes are a key factor in the case against Black, this admission may be critical.

Radler’s performance was a star turn, upping the ante for Black.

James Bone, The Times: The possibility of Conrad Black testifying in his own defence increased yesterday after the prosecution’s star witness responded vigorously to a verbal assault by the former Daily Telegraph chairman’s barrister … Mr Radler’s robust performance in the witness box boosts the prospect of Lord Black deciding to attempt to rebut his testimony in person at his fraud trial when the defence makes its case next month.

So much kvetching.

Mark Steyn, Macleans.ca: Years ago, I saw a very camp musical off-Broadway that had a song called “Four Jews In A Room Bitching”. As I recall, it went:

I’m bitching, he’s bitching
They’re bitching, we’re bitching
Bitch bitch bitch bitch…

Etc. The appearance of David Radler has reduced Judge Amy’s courtroom to much the same state of affairs. It started yesterday afternoon with Radler and Eddie Greenspan, two Jews in a room bitching over whether Radler had once sworn an oath on the Holy Bible, of all things. It ended for the week this lunchtime with Radler and Greenspan bitching over the definition of “right-hand man” … Radler appears to have been sent one of those uplifting Hallmark cards saying “This is the first day of the post-Hollinger phase of your life.”  He seems, in a sense, to have psycholically gone through prison and come out the other side. It’s not that he’s performing well but that he doesn’t care if he performs badly.

Radler tells: Siphoning off money was Black’s idea.

TheStar.com: Conrad Black and other senior Hollinger International Inc. officials first hatched a plan to surreptitiously take payments from the company in early 1999, star witness David Radler said in his second day on the stand. During a phone call in 1999, Black directed that money be sent from the sale of Hollinger newspaper assets to Hollinger Inc., a Toronto holding company in which Black himself was the controlling shareholder, the 64-year-old Radler testified.

Court docs detail Barbara’s bash.

Andrew Clark, The Guardian: Even by the exacting social standards of Conrad Black, it was a gathering of quite staggering opulence. There were six billionaires in the room – plus a Rockefeller, a Rothschild, a selection of America’s top broadcasters and a comedian famed for dressing in drag as an ageing Australian dowager. Court documents in America have shed new light on an infamous surprise 60th birthday party thrown by Lord Black for his wife, Barbara Amiel, in December 2000 at a cost of $62,869.57 … The seating plan gives clues on just how everybody fitted into the social ranking. Lord Black, who claims he was striking business deals at the event, was surrounded by the Vogue editor Anna Wintour, the Dame Edna Everage impersonator Barry Humphries and a clutch of celebrity wives – including Sir Evelyn de Rothschild’s spouse, Lynn, and Henry Ford II’s widow, Kate.

Wednesday recap.

NY Post: [Radler] was rattled in the afternoon after a bruising cross-examination by Black’s lawyer forced him to admit he lied repeatedly to government prosecutors, FBI agents and even his own lawyers. Black’s embarrassment came earlier in the day when the jury was read a memo of his “summer musings” from 2002 that defended his lavish lifestyle … As he acknowledged the growing complaints from Hollinger International shareholders about extravagant spending, Black … wrote to Radler and his other top associates that it should not “force us into a hair shirt, the corporate equivalent of sackcloth and ashes.”

Which led to a very classy mistrial plea.

Edmonton Journal: Conrad Black’s defence team accused the prosecution of trying to sway the jury with “appeals to class prejudice” and sought a mistrial in the former press baron’s fraud trial Wednesday after memos were read in court mentioning Black’s chef and chauffeur. “This is inappropriate and appeals to class prejudice and I move for a mistrial,” Black’s U.S. defence lawyer Edward Genson told Judge Amy St. Eve. [The request was denied, by the way].

Meanwhile, it’s Babs we should feel sorry for.

Emily Hill, Spiked: …It is not Black’s fall from grace that fascinates the British press. All the real bile is spared for his wife, who has been transformed into a modern-day symbol of why greed and desire are sinful, and why it is better to be hard-up but happy than rich and apparently rude. Amiel is a hard-working, right-wing, pro-Israeli former newspaper columnist who was born in Watford, England, in 1940. She moved to Canada as a teenager when her mother remarried and her father committed suicide. She moved out of her mother’s house when she was 14, boarding at a brothel and working in a succession of low-paid jobs in order to put herself through school. She eventually won a place at the University of Toronto and after graduation she moved into journalism. Her writing career took off. After eventually moving back to Britain she wrote prominent columns at The Times and The Sunday Times. She married Black in 1992 and took her column to the Telegraph in 1994, where Black was then proprietor.

Conrad cashes in on the trial.

Felix Gillette, NY Observer: “Conrad Black is no dummy when it comes to promotion,” said Douglas Pepper. Mr Pepper, the president of the Canadian book-publishing company McClelland & Stewart, was on the phone from Toronto. He was explaining the timing of his client Mr. Black’s new book, The Invincible Quest: The Life of Richard Milhous Nixon, which is scheduled to hit the shelves in bookstores throughout Canada on May 22 … Mr. Pepper said that with Mr. Black’s encouragement, he scheduled the debut of the book to piggyback on all the free publicity. “The trial is the biggest story of the year, with the exception of the prime-ministerial elections,” said Mr. Pepper. “Conrad is an icon here, whether you love him or hate him. To wait any longer in this country would be a mistake.”

Peter Fray

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