Try digitalPLUS for 10 days for only $0.99
The Baltimore Sun

Martha 'not afraid' to serve 5 months

Staff Writer

After making an unabashed sales pitch for her products, an unremorseful Martha Stewart said she isn't afraid to serve five months behind bars for lying about a stock sale.

Her former broker, Peter Bacanovic, also drew a five-month sentence when he appeared in court later in the day during a separate session.

I'll be back. I will be back," a defiant Stewart told reporters and supporters outside a lower Manhattan courthouse Friday morning.

"Whatever I have to do in the next few months, I hope the months go by quickly. I'm used to all kinds of hard work, as you know, and I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid whatsoever," she said.

"I'm just very, very sorry that it's come to this, that a small personal matter has been able to be blown out of all proportion, and with such venom and such gore, I mean it's just terrible."

The only remorse Stewart expressed was to her family, supporters and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia employees.

"More than 200 people have lost their jobs at my company as a result of this situation. I want them to know how very, very sorry I am for them and their families," she said.

Stewart, who will remain free while her case is appealed, said she has received "thousands of letters and 170,000 e-mails" of support. "I appreciate each and every one of those pieces of correspondence. I really feel good about it. "

Sporting a black pants suit, opened-toe brown shoes, a black tote bag and diamond earrrings, the domestic diva was accompanied to court by her lawyers, her daughter, son-in-law and a few friends. She had a motorcycle escort, but no celebrities were on hand. During her trial, Bill Cosby and Rosie O'Donnell were among those in the courtroom.

Stewart said she felt "choked" and "suffocated" by what has happened. "What was a small personal matter became, over the last two years, an almost fatal circus event of unprecedented proportions," she lamented.

With a pitch aimed at the public and Wall Street, Stewart practically pleaded with consumers to continue to buy her company's many magazines and home products.

"Whatever happened to me personally shouldn't have any effect whatsoever on the great company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. And I don't want to use this as a sales pitch for my company, but we love that company, we've worked so hard on that company, and we really think it merits great attention from the American public," Stewart said.

Stewart, along with her former broker, Peter Bacanovic, were convicted on conspiracy, obstruction and other charges stemming from her December 2001 ImClone stock sale. Prosecutors charged that Stewart sold the stock just before its price plummeted.

On Friday, stock in her company climbed $2.63 to $11.27 and Kmart Holding Co. reiterated its loyalty to the company after she was sentenced.

"Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is a valued brand partner of Kmart," the Troy-based retailer said. "We look forward to continuing our mutually beneficial and successful relationship with MSLO."

Inside the courtroom, U.S. District Court Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum took the bench promptly at 10 a.m. and said she had read the presentencing report and all 1,500 letters of support for Stewart.

Stewart's attorney, Robert Morvillo, was the first to address the court, asking that his client be spared prison.

"I understand that the government is entitled to the truth when they conduct an investigation, but in evaluating whether to deprive Martha Stewart of freedom, the significance of the effect of the false statements is relevant" as to whether it warrants a prison term. "I do not believe that it does."

Though her tone and demeanor were more contrite inside the packed courtroom, Stewart said many of the same things as she stood before Cedarbaum reading from a prepared statement for about five minutes.

"Today is a shameful day. It's shameful for me, for my familyand for my beloved company," she said.

"What to do?," she posed to the judge. "I ask that in judging me remember all the good that I have done, all the contributions I have made through the company I founded, as well as personally over the past decades of my life."

Stewart's voice cracked only when she said: My heart goes out to you and everyone in this courtroom, and my prayers are with you.

"My hope, that my life will not be completley destroyed, lie entirely in your competance,. experience and merciful hands. Thank you and peace be with you," Stewart concluded.

Cedarbaum, who listened intently with a professional smile creasing her face, said she had sentenced Stewart on the bottom of the confinement range of10 to 16 months because she has no criminal history, has abundant personal and professional support and has suffered plenty.

"It is apparant that you have helped many people outside of your own and that you have a supportive family and hundreds of admirers," the judge said. "I believe that you have suffered and will continue to suffer enough."

In addition to five months imprisonment and five months of house arrest, Stewart also must spend two years under supervised release, which means that she must report toa probation officer. She also was ordered to immediately pay a $30,000 fine.

Cedarbaum said she will recommend that Stewart serve her time in Danbury Federal Correctional Institution, about 20 miles from her Westport home.

Stewart will remain free while her case is appealed. Most federal appeals cases take at least a year to go through the courts and only a small percentage are reversed.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun