NEW YORK, Sept. 15 -- Saying she wants to put her long-running legal troubles behind her, Martha Stewart asked a federal judge Wednesday to send her to prison to begin serving her five-month sentence immediately instead of waiting until a higher court rules on her appeal.
Standing on a podium in the Manhattan offices of the multimedia empire she founded, Stewart spoke -- sometimes tearfully -- of her decision as both a personal choice and a business decision designed to protect Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.
"I suppose the best word to use for this very harsh and difficult decision is finality and my intense desire and need to put this nightmare behind me both personally and professionally," said Stewart, 63, who built a hugely successful business around the image of an idealized domestic life. "I must reclaim my good life. I must return to my good works."
Stewart's lawyers delivered the highly unusual request in a letter to U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, who presided over Stewart's trial on charges of obstruction and lying and ruled in June that she could stay free on appeal.
Even as she announced that she is ready to go to prison, Stewart continued to say she expects to win her appeal.
"I cannot bear any longer the prolonged suffering while I and my legal team await vindication. . . . It is time to get it all behind us, behind me, so we can all move forward," she said.
Even if Stewart were to win a reversal, the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan might retry her, which could take six months or more. The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on her decision.
"This is a very strong appeal . . . [but] any victory that comes more than a year after the conclusion of her trial doesn't work for her, her family and her company," said Stewart's appeals attorney, Walter Dellinger of O'Melveny & Myers LLP.
Two board members of Stewart's company and Sharon L. Patrick, who took over as chief executive after Stewart was indicted, attended the news conference and expressed support for Stewart's decision. "Thank you, Martha. We are all very proud of you as you take this difficult step," said Chairman Thomas C. Siekman.
Stewart is the company's largest shareholder, and Siekman and the other officials emphasized that the decision to go directly to prison was hers alone.