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Stewart's lawyers weigh high court ruling

/ Source: The Associated Press

Martha Stewart’s legal team is reportedly studying whether a Supreme Court ruling tossing out federal sentencing guidelines could shorten the length of her confinement.

“We’re having discussions with our client about the implications of the decision,” lawyer David Chesnoff told The Daily News for Thursday editions.

The court on Wednesday struck down part of a nearly two-decade-old sentencing system and imposed new requirements. Among them, it said appeals courts must ensure that recommended sentences are reasonable.

The decision will affect people whose cases are pending, or defendants whose first appeals are not yet completed — like Stewart.

The homemaking expert was sentenced to five months in prison and five months of home confinement after being convicted of lying about why she unloaded shares of ImClone Systems Inc. stock before the price plunged.

The sentence, imposed by a Manhattan federal judge, was at the bottom end of the range — 10 to 16 total months of prison and home confinement — suggested for Stewart by federal sentencing guidelines.

Part of Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision said that defendants’ rights are violated when judges impose sentences higher than the guidelines, a case that does not apply to Stewart.

But the ruling also suggested the guidelines themselves should be treated as advisory, not mandatory, meaning Stewart’s lawyers could petition for a sentence even less than the five months apiece of prison and house arrest.

Stewart began serving her prison term at federal prison camp in Alderson, W.Va., in October, and is due to be released in early March.