Wednesday , July 24 2024

Martha, Martha, Martha

Jury members say they felt sorry for Martha, but not sorry enough to acquit her:

    “I choked up and I felt my eyes tearing and I was very relieved that the judge read the verdict, because I wasn’t sure if I would have to do that,” jury forewoman Rosemary McMahon said Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

    ….Despite their sympathy for Stewart, the jury’s decision to convict her of lying about a stock sale was made “after careful consideration of everything that we had,” McMahon said. “We did what we had to do.”

    ….Other jurors said Stewart’s assistant Ann Armstrong, who reluctantly testified that Stewart tried to alter a phone record of a message from her stockbroker, was the key witness leading them to the domestic diva’s conviction.

    Armstrong testified that Stewart sat down at Armstrong’s desk to change a message from her broker, Peter Bacanovic, that informed her that he thought the ImClone stock price would start falling.

    “She ultimately gave the testimony that was going to bring Martha down. That was a very important piece,” said juror Chappell Hartridge, one of six jurors who spoke to “Dateline NBC” in interviews that aired Sunday night.

    “We all believed her 100 percent,” juror Adam Sachs said of Armstrong. [AP]

Martha has to meet with her probation officer today:

    Peter Bacanovic, the stockbroker convicted along with Martha Stewart for lying about a stock sale, arrived at a Manhattan courthouse Monday to meet with a probation officer.

    Stewart was expected to show up at the same court later in the day for her own probation meeting. The meeting is the first step toward sentencing, which is set for June 17 for both.

    ….At the probation meeting, newly convicted defendants give profile information to an officer and answer some basic questions. Probation officials later write a report for the judge handling the sentence.

    Bacanovic and Stewart are each expected to get 10 to 16 months in prison after they were each convicted on four counts Friday at their closely watched criminal trial. [AP]

The possibility of ANY jail time was enough for Martha to turn down a plea offer last April. Her last hope to stay out of a very well-appointed slammer is an appeal:

    Within hours of being convicted Friday of conspiracy, making false statements and obstructing the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of the ImClone trade, Stewart and her former Merrill Lynch & Co. broker, Peter E. Bacanovic, said they would appeal.

    Stewart and Bacanovic have a difficult task, outside lawyers said. Appeals judges review most issues against the standard of whether the trial judge abused his or her discretion, a very tough benchmark to meet.

    The defense lawyers’ best chance may be to argue that U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum’s rulings violated the defendants’ constitutional rights, legal analysts said.

    “The rules of evidence provide the judge with vast discretion in managing the evidence” that goes to a jury, said Barry Boss, a defense lawyer not involved in the case. “But you do have a Sixth Amendment and a due process right to articulate your chosen defense.”

    ….Lawyers for both defendants declined through spokesmen to comment for this article, but sources familiar with Stewart’s team said Cedarbaum’s decision to limit what defense lawyers could tell the jury will probably be central to her case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

    Cedarbaum not only refused to allow a defense expert to testify on insider-trading law, she also told Morvillo he could not argue that Stewart was being unfairly singled out for prosecution because of her celebrity.

    Stewart’s lawyers also plan to attack the prosecution’s argument that Stewart and Bacanovic’s statements to investigators about what happened on Dec. 27 were false because they “concealed” the true reason for the trade.

    ….The defense teams’ argument on the “concealment theory” centers on the fact that there are no official records of what questions Stewart and Bacanovic were asked by government investigators, legal analysts said.

    For example, if Stewart was asked, “Tell us everything that went into your decision to sell ImClone on Dec. 27,” an answer that failed to mention the tip about the Waksals’ trading would almost certainly qualify as concealment. But if she was asked, “What was the main reason you sold?” her answer about the $60 arrangement might not meet the legal definition of a false statement. The jury never specifically found that the $60 arrangement did not exist.

    The defense therefore could argue that without a written or taped record of the questions there was not enough evidence to prove that the statements were false beyond a reasonable doubt. [Wahsington Post]

Newsweek has a thumbnail analysis of the case:

    Martha Stewart’s high-powered defense team got it wrong. They assumed prosecutors failed to make their case, and put up no defense. Here’s what happened:

    Codefendant: PETER BACANOVIC
    His lawyers did more harm than good for Martha. Every witness they called seemed to turn against them and ended up backing the prosecution. Oops.

    The Defense: ROBERT MORVILLO
    Martha’s blue-chip defense attorney gambled by not putting Martha on the stand. A juror said later that they wanted to hear her side.

    The Prosecutor: KAREN PATTON SEYMOUR
    She kept the case simple, focusing on basic facts and not celebrity. Plus, her low-key manner and slight Texas twang were a good casting call against the stone-silent Martha.

    The Assistant: ANN ARMSTRONG
    Jurors say Armstrong was the most damaging witness because she was real. She loved her boss (and her plum pudding) and recounted the moment when Martha knew she had done wrong.

    Her attention to detail and schoolmarm bearing kept the lawyers in line even during some of the raucous days of the trial. Since day one she said the government had a strong case, and she called it.

Does the case have larger implications?

    the lasting impact of the Stewart case may be that it will become the new standard for judging all fat cats who don’t play by the rules. “We’re now going to see the ‘Martha test’ as a fair punishment for white-collar crimes,” says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, associate dean of the Yale School of Management. “This is going to have a strong influence on jurors from here on out.”

Her prospects?

    Martha’s appeal is a long shot, since her attorneys must prove that the judge made serious errors. And Judge Miriam Cedarbaum actually ruled in favor of the defense most of the time, including dismissing the government’s most serious charge against Stewart. Perhaps the cruelest penalty for Martha is the prospect of being cast out of the $250 million company she built from scratch. As a convicted felon, Martha faces a lifetime ban from serving as an executive or a director of a public company.

    ….Martha now has time to reflect on what went wrong. For starters, she admits she wishes she had not returned her broker’s call on Dec. 27, 2001, while jetting off to vacation at the exclusive Las Ventanas resort in Mexico. Martha made that admission not on the witness stand, but to Barbara Walters two months before the trial. Martha never took the stand in her own defense, a risky strategy that legal experts say was probably based on the diva’s volatility and the inconsistencies in her story. Another risk: if the judge believed Stewart lied on the stand, she could have doubled her prison sentence. Still, juries like to hear from celebrity defendants. “I would have loved to have heard the other side of the story,” says juror Hartridge.

    ….Martha’s frosty demeanor struck Hartridge as arrogant. “She seemed to say: ‘I don’t have anything to worry about. I fooled the jury. I don’t have anything to prove’.” Even courtroom visits by Martha’s pals Rosie and Bill Cosby seemed highhanded. “Like that was supposed to sway our decision,” sniffed Hartridge.

And what of prison?

    It’s just 25 miles from Martha Stewart’s country manse in Bedford, N.Y., to the minimum-security women’s federal prison camp at Danbury, Conn. But for a woman used to unparalleled luxury, her likely future home will seem a world apart.

    ….most experts point to Danbury – which housed Leona Helmsley and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon – as her likely destination because it’s close to her family.

    According to Danbury alumni, the women’s camp has no fences or barred cells; instead of breakouts, guards have worried about nearby residents trespassing to enjoy the lake. “Campers”—most in for immigration or drug charges—sleep in small, bunk-bedded dorm rooms (some house eight women apiece) and spend their days in the kitchen or maintaining the grounds. For recreation, there are two TV lounges, a law library, a track, and a gymnasium used for Pilates, yoga, dancersize or aerobics (but not tai chi, which the Feds have deemed a martial art). There’s no e-mail or cell phones (and long waits for pay phones), and guards discourage friendships by rotating bunkmates frequently.

    ….Stewart will be dealing with no-nonsense guards who’ll search her before and after visitations and shackle her if she leaves the facility for a doctor’s visit. “To classify any of the federal prison camps as ‘Club Fed’ or to imply there’s any sense of civility or decency about them is not right,” says Herb Hoelter of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, who represented Helmsley, Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky at their sentencings.

I’m not sure what THE lesson is here, or even if there is one other than don’t talk to the government when they start asking questions. The other lesson is that the government will find something if they decide you deserve to be taken down. Newsweek’s Allan Sloan agrees:

    Stewart’s trial wasn’t about corporate misbehavior. It was about misleading the government, which was investigating her for a crime – insider trading – that she was never charged with. If Stewart weren’t such a big name, who’d care about this stuff? For heaven’s sake. When a cop pulls you over for going 70 in a 55-mile-per-hour zone and you say you didn’t know how fast you were going although you damn well did, you’re lying to an investigating officer. If you take $520 of charitable deductions on your income tax but can document only $500 of them, it can become tax fraud. If the government decides to put your life under a microscope, do you think it won’t find something? I suspect there’s not an adult in the country who would walk away totally unscathed if every aspect of his or her life were investigated the way Stewart’s ImClone trading was.

The corollary of which is that it is a bad idea to piss off the government, even, or perhaps especially, if you are Martha Stewart.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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