Martha Stewart will go to prison Oct. 8, a federal judge ruled Tuesday, granting her request to begin serving a five-month sentence as she appeals her conviction.
U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum requested that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons assign Stewart to the minimum-security prison camp at either Danbury Conn., or Coleman, Fla., but Stewart may not learn exactly where to go until 72 hours before her 2 p.m. reporting time on Oct. 8.
The stock of Stewart's company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., shot up on the news, closing at $14.81, up $1.64, or 12.45 percent for the day. The share price has climbed 33 percent since Stewart announced last week she wanted to go to prison immediately. It is now at its highest since June 2002, when word first leaked that Stewart was the subject of a securities probe.
"It's a pretty clear signal to me that everyone agrees that she has got to get out of the way and do her jail time," said Paul A. Argenti, professor of corporate communication at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business.
Stewart, 63, and her former broker Peter E. Bacanovic were found guilty in March of conspiracy, obstruction and lying to federal investigators about her December 2001 sale of ImClone Systems Inc. stock, but Cedarbaum ruled they could stay free while they appealed their convictions.
Last week, Stewart made her unusual request to go to prison anyway, citing her "need to put this nightmare behind me both personally and professionally." Stock analysts and image consultants said the move was Stewart's best chance to save the multimedia and housewares company that she founded. Advertisers have been staying away from the flagship Martha Stewart Living Magazine, and Stewart's syndicated television show is on hiatus.
Stewart remains the firm's largest shareholder, and the board of directors has said it expects her to return to work there as soon as she completes her prison sentence. The company's chief executive, Sharon L. Patrick, who took over after Stewart was indicted, said last week that the company hopes to resume the television program next year.
The Oct. 8 surrender date means Stewart will be released in early March. She will then have to serve five months of home confinement at her Bedford, N.Y., estate, but will be allowed to work 48 hours a week during that period.
"Ms. Stewart is pleased that Judge Cedarbaum has set an early date for her to begin serving her sentence. She remains hopeful that she will be designated to Danbury, which is the facility nearest to her home," said Stewart's spokeswoman Anna Cordasco.
Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said that in determining prison assignments, the bureau takes judges' requests into consideration, along with factors such as length of sentence and the inmate's offense and prior record. The bureau also tries to place inmates within 500 miles of the home they will be released to. Danbury is less than 30 miles from Stewart's homes in Westport, Conn., and Bedford, but Coleman is more than 1,100 miles away.
Both Danbury and Coleman have prison camp facilities for nonviolent female offenders. Inmates are often housed in rooms of four to six people, and everyone who is physically able to must work. Prison jobs can include grounds keeping and food service and generally pay up to 40 cents an hour.
Stewart and Bacanovic, who remains out of prison, are continuing to press their appeals. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit will not rule on the case until next year.