CHICAGO: Mark Kipnis, the lawyer on trial for racketeering and fraud alongside Lord Conrad Black and two other former Hollinger International executives, is guilty of nothing more than honest mistakes, the jury has heard.

Kipnis, erstwhile general counsel at the publisher, was not familiar with the workings of a newspaper business and "did the best he could with the information he had, given his experience," his defense counsel Ron Safer told the court.

He claimed Kipnis did not realise the $60 million (€44.8m; £30.4m) paid to Black and his colleagues in "non-compete" fees following the sale of many of the company's titles needed to be made public in the annual report to shareholders.

At the opening of the trial, prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer had painted an altogether less flattering portrait of Kipnis as "the pen", willing to sign anything in return for six-figure bonuses.

Black, ex-chairman/ceo of Hollinger, is charged with fraud, racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice that could result in a maximum prison sentence of 101 years, plus millions in fines and $92 million in possible forfeitures.

Kipnis and the other defendants, accountant Jack Boultbee and Hollinger lawyer Peter Atkinson are charged with lesser offenses. Kipnis is accused of accepting a $100,000 bonus from a deal Black signed with ex-close associate - turned star prosecution witness - David Radler.

Gustave Newman, Boultbee's defence lawyer, told the jury the deals under scrutiny were common knowledge to a large number of people inside and outside of Hollinger (now known as the Sun-Times Media Group) yet no one raised a red flag.

Prosecutors contend such fees should have gone to the company as profits for its investors and not into the pockets of Black and the others.

The prosecution later called its first witness, Gordon Paris, Black's successor at Hollinger who led the internal probe that accused the fallen media baron of running a "corporate kleptocracy".

The trial continues.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff