updated 3/18/2005 11:42:07 AM ET 2005-03-18T16:42:07

A federal appeals court has granted a request from Martha Stewart, serving five months of house arrest following a five-month prison term, to give her trial judge the option to change her sentence.

The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was described by federal prosecutors and by people close to Stewart's defense as routine in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling on federal sentencing guidelines.

The high court ruling said the guidelines, once mandatory for federal judges, are now merely advisory.

Since the ruling, the 2nd Circuit has granted consideration of a new sentence to any defendant who wants one, Megan Gaffney, a spokeswoman for Manhattan federal prosecutors, said Friday.

Still, legal experts have said since the Supreme Court ruling that most federal judges have followed the guidelines anyway.

The domestic-arts mogul was sentenced last year to five months in prison and five months of house arrest for lying to federal investigators about a 2001 personal stock sale.

That sentence, imposed by Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, fell at the lowest end of the federal guideline range for Stewart's crimes — conspiracy, obstructing justice and giving false statements.

Lawyers for Stewart are expected to propose possible new sentences for Stewart, including time served, which — should Cedarbaum grant the motion — would allow her to end her house arrest immediately.

Stewart has complained to fans in an online chat that the plastic ankle bracelet she wears for monitoring purposes while on house arrest chafes. "I wish it were removable, but it is not," she wrote in her chat.

Stewart left a federal prison in Alderson, W.Va., on March 4. Barring a change in her sentence, she would be free to leave house arrest in early August. She is already permitted to leave home 48 hours per week for work.

On Thursday, her lawyers appeared before a three-judge appeals panel — with Stewart looking on — in a bid to have her conviction overturned.

The lawyers have argued her trial was tainted by improper suggestions by prosecutors that Stewart was charged with criminal insider trading, and by a juror who lied on his jury questionnaire.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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