Barbara Amiel fainted in the courtroom yesterday when her husband was sentenced Friday to a likely nine or so more months in prison. Amiel was attended to by medical staff in the Chicago courtroom where disgraced media tycoon Conrad Black was being re-sentenced.
Amiel, now in her 70s, is frail and has long suffered a rare blood disease that causes an autoimmune condition. A loyal companion, Amiel has been dragged through eight years of shareholder recriminations directed at her husband, government seizures of some Black properties, the forced sale of others to raise cash for lawyers, and several lengthy trials culminating in a failed bid to have the U.S. Supreme Court, no less, overturn his fraud and obstruction of justice convictions. (The Supremes returned the case to the court in which Black was originally tried.)
I am no fan of the neo-conservative scribbler Amiel. But neither am I insensitive to the acute physical and mental strain her husband has put her through.
Decades ago, Black could begun resisting the compulsion not to play fair with pensioners of and investors in his companies. He and his cronies could have resisted blindsiding the directors of the many holding companies they used to manipulate funds in their Three Card Monte enterprise.
When the law caught up with Black, and he became Inmate #18330-424 at the Coleman Federal Corrections Institute near Orlando, Black could have served his six-and-a-half years quietly, thankful that he didn't get the de facto death sentences dealt to aging convicts at Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia and so on.
Instead, ever defiant in protecting - or salvaging - his vanity, Black has tirelessly burdened the legal system with appeals, the public with pompous assertions of innocence, and his wife and children with needlessly prolonged anguish.
"My concern is not for myself...but for those dearest to me," Black told Justice Amy St. Eve on Friday, citing Kipling and Twain in an unrepentent 25-minute address to the court accorded him by a generous St. Eve. "Your honor, because I do not speak of it much you must not believe my family and I have not suffered deeply in the past eight years."
Well, whose fault is that? Who put a gun to his head and forced a lightfingered Black to remove evidence from his former headquarters in violation of a recent court order? How many months have gone by these past eight years without a Black cry to the heavens about his absurd and wholly unfair treatment by the Fates?
And exactly when, if ever, has Conrad Black's deepest concern ever been for someone other than himself?