updated 4/26/2004 8:24:45 PM ET 2004-04-27T00:24:45

Federal prosecutors on Monday again urged a judge to deny Martha Stewart and her ex-stockbroker a new trial, disputing a claim that the first trial was tainted when the jury discussed Stewart's expensive handbag.

Stewart claims she deserves a new trial because one juror failed to disclose a previous arrest record and because a Bronx Little League executive claims the juror once confessed to embezzling money.

Peter Bacanovic, the former broker convicted with Stewart on March 5, moved for a new trial last week based on reports the jury discussed a handbag that the celebrity homemaker occasionally toted to court.

The Birkin bag, coveted by Manhattan style-setters, was quoted at $14,000 by tabloid newspapers. Bacanovic's lawyer claims one juror also reported discussion in the jury room of high hourly fees charged by Stewart's lawyer.

But the three federal prosecutors who won the conviction against Stewart and Bacanovic said in papers filed Monday that neither claim is sufficient to show that either defendant received an unfair trial.

"This was not a case about fashion, the rates charged by high-profile criminal defense lawyers or the wealth or lifestyle of either defendant," they wrote. "It was a case about false statements, perjury and obstruction of justice."

U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum has the option of granting a new trial, rejecting it or holding a hearing.

Stewart and Bacanovic were convicted of lying to the government about the circumstances of Stewart's Dec. 27, 2001, sale of nearly 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems stock, which plunged the next day on a negative government report.

They are to be sentenced June 17. Legal experts say they expect each to get 10 to 16 months in prison, although either could be allowed to spend some of the time in home confinement.

Prosecutors have already filed one set of papers opposing a second trial. They filed the second set Monday to answer new charges by Stewart and papers filed by Bacanovic last week seeking a new trial.

The juror named in the Stewart papers, Chappell Hartridge, has not spoken publicly about the allegations of misconduct or returned messages from The Associated Press.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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