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Martha Stewart's lawyers seek new trial

Lawyers for Martha Stewart asked for a new trial Wednesday after claiming one of the convicting jurors lied about his criminal record during jury selection.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Martha Stewart requested a new trial Wednesday, saying one of the jurors who convicted her failed to disclose a checkered past that includes an arrest on assault charges.

Stewart’s lawyers said juror Chappell Hartridge has been sued three times and has been accused of stealing money from a Little League group — but improperly left the accusations off his jury questionnaire.

The lawyers said Hartridge, who called Stewart’s guilty verdict a victory for “the little guy,” showed a clear bias against Stewart that damaged her right to a fair trial.

“Ms. Stewart’s conviction cannot stand,” Stewart lawyer Robert Morvillo wrote in a filing in Manhattan federal court.

Marvin Smilon, a spokesman for the federal prosecutors who brought the case against the domestic entrepreneur, said: “We are reviewing the motion and will respond at the appropriate time.”

Stewart was convicted March 5 of lying to federal investigators about her sale of 3,298 shares of ImClone Systems Inc. stock on Dec. 27, 2001, just before it plunged on a negative government report.

She is to be sentenced June 17. Legal experts believe she will receive a sentence of 10 to 16 months in prison for the four guilty counts — obstructing justice, conspiracy and two counts of making false statements.

Morvillo claimed he would have moved to strike Hartridge from the jury had Hartridge given truthful answers on his jury questionnaire — perhaps opening the way for a juror who would have found Stewart innocent.

Hartridge could not immediately be reached for comment on the allegations. A phone number that matches his Bronx address was listed as out of service, and a message left at an alternate number was not returned.

The Stewart filing said Hartridge was arrested and spent several days in jail in 1997 after the woman with whom he was living accused him of threatening to kill her and throwing her into a statue of an elephant in her apartment.

The woman was badly bruised but declined to press charges because she could not miss work to appear in court, the filing said.

Included in the Stewart court filing was an affidavit from the woman, who said Hartridge was “occasionally physically abusive” to her during the four months they lived together.

Hartridge “dishonestly suppressed information concerning a gender-related incident in order to be able to sit in judgment of a well-known and highly successful woman in a case alleging false statements,” Morvillo wrote.

The juror also failed to disclose on his jury questionnaire that he had been sued three times, the Stewart filing said. The papers said civil judgments had been entered against him in each case.

Among many other questions, potential jurors for the Stewart trial were asked whether they had been in court before, been sued or been accused of any crime.

The Stewart team sought a new trial under a 1984 Supreme Court case that said convicts can seek new trials if they show that a juror lied in jury selection and that the truth would have provided a basis to remove that juror.

The filing also included allegations from a Bronx Little League coach — never reported to law enforcement — that Hartridge stole as much as $50,000 from the organization while he was its treasurer.

Hartridge was the most vocal of the 12 jurors who convicted Stewart, speaking at length to reporters outside the courthouse on March 5 and making several television appearances.

“Maybe it’s a victory for the little guy who loses money in the markets because of these types of transactions,” he told reporters on the day of the verdict.

Morvillo submitted a batch of news articles quoting Hartridge making similar statements. The lawyer claims they show an unfair bias that would have kept Hartridge off the jury if lawyers had known about it sooner.