Video: Stewart goes to jail

NBC News and news services
updated 10/8/2004 2:34:46 PM ET 2004-10-08T18:34:46

Martha Stewart reported to prison early Friday to begin serving a five-month sentence for lying about a stock sale, the federal Bureau of Prisons said.

Stewart, 63, was convicted in March of lying to investigators about why she sold ImClone stock in December 2001, just before the stock price plunged. She was allowed to remain free pending appeal but asked to begin serving her time anyway.

The millionaire celebrity homemaker arrived at the federal women’s prison in Alderson at about 6:15 a.m., according to a statement released by Traci Billingsley, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Stewart is to remain at the prison until March. A Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman has said inmates who are sentenced to a year or less are not eligible for early release because of good behavior.

Stewart has said she will miss her pets during her stay in prison, but hoped to be free in time for spring gardening.

“While I am away, my updates here will be less frequent, if not altogether impossible,” Stewart said Friday on her Web site. “But please know this change is only an unfortunate reflection of my current circumstances, and in no way diminishes my commitment to my life’s work or to the friends, colleagues, customers and supporters who make it possible.

“With your good wishes in my heart, I am looking forward to being back at work in March, and to many brighter days ahead.”

Stewart also will forgo five months of her $900,000-a-year in base pay from her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., while she is in prison. A new employment contract approved on Sept. 17 says the company will resume paying her when she leaves prison and is on home confinement.

Stewart will be eligible for jobs that pay only 12 cents to 40 cents an hour while in prison.

On Thursday, her attorneys accused the government of improperly withholding evidence that “could have led to an acquittal.”

Ink expert
Stewart’s attorneys said prosecutors should have provided the defense with documents that emerged as evidence during the recent perjury trial of ink expert Larry Stewart, who testified against Martha Stewart.

Among the documents is a 2002 memo written by a Secret Service scientist who tested the ink on a worksheet of Martha Stewart’s stock holdings — a key piece of evidence against the homemaking maven and her former stockbroker.

In the memo, scientist Susan Fortunato wrote that ink in a notation of “(at)60” next to a listing for ImClone Systems Inc. stock was different from “all” other inks on the worksheet.

That contention bolstered the government’s case that the broker, Peter Bacanovic, had doctored the worksheet by adding the “(at)60” notation to support a cover story for why Martha Stewart sold ImClone stock.

In fact, Fortunato had not tested all the ink on the worksheet. She failed to test a dash mark that appeared next to another stock listing — an omission Martha Stewart’s lawyers say “sabotaged” the testing.

“That could have led to an acquittal — if the government had complied with its ... obligations and the jury had been aware of the memo,” the letter from Stewart’s lawyers said.

Defense attorneys said they had made repeated unsuccessful requests to federal prosecutors to obtain the full laboratory file for the document testing, including the 2002 memo.

“The government’s crime lab sabotaged the critical testing in an effort to secure her indictment and conviction,” the letter said. “That revelation to the jury could have easily led it to conclude that the government overreached in prosecuting Ms. Stewart.”

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan had no comment, spokeswoman Megan Gaffney said.

Imclone stock
Larry Stewart was acquitted earlier this week of perjury charges. Federal prosecutors had accused him of lying on the witness stand at Martha Stewart’s trial, exaggerating the role he played in the testing of the worksheet.

Martha Stewart and Bacanovic were convicted in March of lying to investigators about why Stewart sold ImClone stock in December 2001, just before the stock price plunged.

Both were allowed to remain free pending appeal, but Stewart has asked to begin serving her time anyway and was asked to report to Alderson by 2 p.m. EDT Friday.

Stewart’s lawyers will ask a federal appeals court later this month to overturn the conviction.

NBC's Anne Thompson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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