Martha Stewart Sentencing
Sentencing at 10 a.m. ET
Criminal Defense Lawyer
Friday, July 16, 2004; 1:00 PM
"Today is a shameful day. It's shameful for me, my family and for my beloved company," said Martha Stewart, 62, in a statement made outside the courthouse in New York City where U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum handed down the sentence for Stewart's conviction in March of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators about her December 2001 sale of ImCone Systems Inc. stock.
The sentence: Five months in prison, five months of home confinement, a $30,000 fine and two years probation.
Full Coverage:Martha Stewart Sentenced to 5 Months in Prison (AP, July 16)
Criminal defense lawyer Jeralyn Merritt was online Friday, July 22, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the sentencing of Martha Stewart.
A transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Jeralyn Merritt: Hi everyone! I'm Jeralyn Merritt, a criminal defense attorney, and we're going to talk about Martha Stewart's sentencing. So, fire away.
Santa Ana, Calif.:
Should Martha receive bond on appeal, how long would/could that take?
Jeralyn Merritt: In order for Martha to be granted an appeal bond, the Judge has to find not only that she is not a flight risk or a danger to the community --that's the easy part-- but that the appeal is not for the purpose of delay and that it raises a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in a reversal or a new trial--or a sentence that does not include imprisonment or one that is less than the time already served plus the expected duration of the appeal
Her lawyers will argue substantial legal and factual issues exist that are likely to result in a reversal or new trial. AI expect they will raise again the issues in her motions for new trial--juror misconduct and the alleged false statement of the Government's ink expert.
Do you think Martha's defense has any substantive grounds for appeal? Didn't they appeal once before?
What exactly did the government witness accused of perjury lie about?
Jeralyn Merritt: Yes, I think Martha's defense has several grounds for appeal.
After Martha's trial, the Government charged Larry F. Stewart, a Secret Service ink expert with lying on the witness stand at Martha Stewart's trial. The Government alleges that he that he lied about participating in the August, 2002 analysis of a worksheet and when he said he was familiar with a book proposal on ink analysis. The Government claims to have uncovered eight separate false statements made by Larry Stewart on the stand about two subjects: that he participated in an August 2002 examination of the worksheet, and that he was familiar with a book proposal on ink analysis.
Martha's lawyers have accused one of her jurors, Chappell Hartridge, of lying about an arrest record in order to get on the trial. Cedarbaum denied a request for a new trial, saying there was no proof the juror lied or was biased.
While Judge Cedarbaum found the juror's and ink expert's alleged lies did not warrant a new trial, you can expect her lawyers to raise these arguments again in the Appeals Court, hoping for a different ruling.
How good/bad would you say her legal defense was?
Jeralyn Merritt: I think her defense was made more difficult because her first lawyers allowed her to submit to an interview with the Government. Had she refused to talk to the Government in the first place, while she might still have been indicted, at least she couldn't have been convicted based upon her own statements.
Robert Morvillo, who tried the case, is a well-respected, experienced white-collar criminal defense lawyer with an established track record. He gave Martha Stewart the benefit of his best professional judgment, and he won the dismissal of the most serious charge against her.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Should he have put on more witnesses? Maybe there weren't any credible witnesses to refute the charges. I think he did the best he could with what he had.
With good behavior will Martha be released early from jail?
Jeralyn Merritt: No, Martha will not be released early from prison. There is no federal good time on sentences that are 12 months or less.
I think that the five-month prison sentence was actually a partial victory for Martha Stewart -- she could easily have gotten ten months or more. The prosecutors in this case were so greedy to make a big deal about an offense that would probably not have been prosecuted if the accused had not been famous. And they piled on inflated charges as usual -- the main charge got thrown out earlier. I can't tell you how much I HATE prosecutors. They think they're God and they are really just social scum like worms in the dirt.
Jeralyn Merritt: The sentence was the most favorable sentence the Judge could give under the federal sentencing guidelines without a downward departure. Five months in custody and five months on home detention is a lot better than ten months or more in jail.
Also, the Judge recommended Martha serve her time at the federal prison camp in Danbury. While this isn't binding on BOP, BOP generally tries to comply with judicial recommendations. So it's unlikely Martha will get the Lea Fastow treatment--doing time in a downtown detention facility rather than a camp.
How did the Supreme Court's recent Blakely decision figure into the sentencing? Did the judge indicate that she was withholding any possible enhancements of the sentence on that basis?
Jeralyn Merritt: I believe Judge Cedarbaum ruled that Blakely didn't apply to Martha's sentencing because there were no judicially determined enhancements.
Will she actually spend time in a cell?
Jeralyn Merritt: If she goes to a minimum security federal prison camp like Danbury, she won't be in a cell. It's more like a dorm or barracks. No bars. But it's not a walk in the park, either. She will definitely feel her loss of freedom.
In light of Ms. Stewart's completely defiant and unapologetic remarks, can the judge do anything to change her lenient sentence and decision to allow Stewart to remain free pending appeal?
Jeralyn Merritt: The Judge cannot change her sentence. Martha's remarks should not affect the Judge's decision on whether she should receive an appeal bond--remorse is not a factor in deciding whether an appeal bond should be granted. Nor is it a factor in determining whether a defendant should be granted a voluntary surrender.
Why is Martha Stewart overshadowing Waksal and Bacanovic? What they did is far worse? Although Bacanovic was convicted for the same thing, he also had a fiduciary duty as her broker. I sense that gender has a role in this.
Jeralyn Merritt: I think celebrity was a bigger factor than gender in the decision to play hard ball with Martha.
Jeralyn Merritt: Sorry. BOP is the Bureau of Prisons.
I'm probably alone in thinking that Martha got what was coming to her. She has been abusing the people around her for most of her life and obviously felt she was "above the law" -- the way she thumbed her nose at the investigators, lying and covering things up. Hopefully this injects a pinch of humility into her life. Do you believe that Martha would be doing jail time if she had just cooperated from the beginning?
Jeralyn Merritt: Newsweek reported that Martha turned down two deals , including one in April, 2003 which would have allowed for, but not guaranteed, a non-jail sentence.
Martha's concern may have been the felony conviction, since it impacted her ability to be in charge of a public company. Apparently, the Government was not willing to offer her a misdemeanor.
So could she win an appeal before she has to begin her sentence?
Jeralyn Merritt: If the Judge grants her request for bail pending appeal, she would remain free until the appeals court decision came down. If it was favorable to her, she'd never have to go do the time.
Will there be any real chances for Martha not to have to really go to a real jail? I do not like it. IS THIS REAL? It doesn't seem real. Bill Clinton and Jacko and the rest of the liars and crooks and yes, killers are there to be punished and we pick on a 62-year-old self made icon? I guess we will show her. I am saddened. People like Hillary Clinton lying, lying everywhere lies and it doesn't seem fair to do this to her. Sorry I couldn't be brief. I guess my real question could be ... IS THIS REAL?
Jeralyn Merritt: Unfortunately for Martha, this is real. Unless she gets an appeal bond and wins then wins her appeal, she will have to go do the time.
Is this not another case of a celebrity getting a light sentence? Is there any hope that one's celebrity won't come into play in judicial matters short of capital crimes? It was even intimated ahead of time that Stewart might get a light sentence because her celebrity status would cause disruption in jail.
Jeralyn Merritt: I don't think Martha got a light sentence. She got the least possible under the guidelines, but I think there are a lot of questions about whether Joan Q. Public in her shoes would even have been prosecuted.
Martha was convicted of making false statements to investigators, obstructing justice and conspiring to do both. In essence, the jury found her guilty of covering up a crime (insider trading) she never committed and was never charged with. It was a novel theory of prosecution and had she been anyone but a celebrity, I wonder whether the Government would have even pursued it.
There is a lesson
What's the lesson to be learned in Martha Stewart's conviction?
Jeralyn Merritt: I think the less is that if you learn you are the subject of a federal probe, white collar or otherwise, the best advice is keep your mouth shut and don't think you can talk yourself out of it. The jails are filled with people who thought if they only could tell their side of the story, the police and investigators would see it their way.
I'm also skeptical of the wisdom of civil lawyers who trot their clients down for interviews thinking they're going to get some kind of benefit. Once you waive that privilege against self-incrimination, it's gone. Miranda rights are not just words. Remember....anything you say can and most likely will be used against you.
I know Martha was found guilty of lying to federal investigators, but I am not clear as to what exactly Martha lied about. Thanks.
Jeralyn Merritt: The Government charged that Martha made made false statements to investigators when she told them she didn't recall being told that Sam Waksal was dumping his stock shares in ImClone..
It will be interesting to see if Ken Lay and the
other Enron indictees who bilked thousands or
people out of their retirements will receive the
same scrutiny and punishment that Martha
Stewart has received.
I will continue to support Martha Stewart's
magazine and products. I hope she gets through
this stronger than before.
Jeralyn Merritt: Ken Lay and the other Enron indictees face far more serious sentences than Martha. If convicted, their sentences will be based upon the amount of the fraud or loss. Andrew Fastow has agreed to a ten year sentence.
I don't think Martha and Enron are comparable. Martha was convicted of lying about a personal stock deal--not a matter that affected her company. The charge that related to her making false statements to affect her company was justly tossed during the trial.
With this verdict, what will the effect/outcome be of her company and its employees?
Jeralyn Merritt: Earlier this morning, the stock was up! The jail sentence is short enough that I don't think it will have much effect on the company or employees. If you support Martha, go buy her products and subscribe to her magazines now. That will help.
Eye St NW, Washington, D.C.:
I have to say, rather than fighting what appears to be a losing battle, why doesn't she just sign in and let the 5-month clock start ticking?
Jeralyn Merritt: Because she wants to avoid jail entirely. I don't think it's necessarily a losing battle. I'd give her a fighting chance.
Just a comment: I don't think she deserved any jail time, or in this case, house arrest. I think probation and community service would have been fit the crime.
Jeralyn Merritt: I agree with you. Unfortunately, the federal sentencing guidelines do not.
Jeralyn Merritt: Thanks everyone for joining in. I hope I was able to shed some light on the sentencing.
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