CNN/Money One for credit card only hard offer form at $9.95 One for risk-free form at $14.95 w/ $9.95 upsell  
News > Newsmakers

Martha likely to do prison time
Lifestyle diva will get 5 months to a year or more when she, Bacanovic, sentenced Friday: experts.
July 15, 2004: 5:33 PM EDT
By Krysten Crawford, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Martha Stewart will finally be sentenced Friday for lying to investigators about a stock sale that brought little financial gain but heavy losses in terms of stature and -- ultimately, it seems likely -- her freedom.

graphic graphic graphic
Stewart faces up to 16 months in prison but her lawyers have been working to avoid that. CNNfn's Mary Snow reports.

premium content Play video
(Real or Windows Media)

Stewart and former Merrill Lynch broker Peter Bacanovic were convicted March 5 of obstructing justice, conspiracy and making false statements related to Stewart's suspicious sale of ImClone Systems stock in late 2001.

U.S. District Court judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, who has twice delayed Friday's hearing, said she will sentence Stewart in the morning, and then Bacanovic in the afternoon.

The federal sentencing guidelines call for a minimum range of 10 to 16 months for each defendant. But Cederbaum could lock them up for even longer or disregard the sentencing guidelines and keep them out of jail altogether.

"This is a lot different than most sentencings, which are usually cut-and-dried," said Kirby Behre, a former federal prosecutor now with Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. "Here the judge has a huge swath of possible jail time" from which to choose.

Legal experts were split on how hard Cedarbaum would come down, but most agreed that the sentence will call for some jail time.

"I don't think there's any question that there will be a prison component," said Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor and Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer now in private practice in Washington.

Some said the sentence could be as little as five months, but Frenkel thinks Cedarbaum will start with a minimum of a year.

Martha Stewart is to be sentenced Friday after being convicted on four counts of obstructing justice and lying to investigators.

"This is not somebody who made some inadvertent false statement," said Frenkel. Noting Stewart's high public profile, Frenkel added, "this is a case where a jury convicted a CEO for lying to two different government agencies. That's a big deal."

Whatever their sentences, neither Stewart nor Bacanovic will be immediately handcuffed and sent to prison.

Instead, lawyers for both are expected to ask Cedarbaum to allow them to remain out of jail pending the outcome of any appeals. If Cedarbaum denies that request, Stewart and Bacanovic still can appeal to a higher court for a stay of their sentences.

No Mercy?

Stewart's lawyers have submitted papers, kept under seal because they contain detailed confidential information about Stewart, that argue for lenience. Grounds for this request include Stewart's history of charitable giving, and the likelihood that Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, her namesake company, would further deteriorate in her absence.

In addition, Stewart, 62, who did not testify at her trial, has the option of addressing the court at her sentencing hearing.

Stanley Twardy Jr., a former U.S. attorney in Connecticut, thinks it's unlikely that Stewart will speak to Cedarbaum.

"[Martha] has herself in a Catch-22. If she gets up and says 'I didn't do anything wrong,' the judge could go with 16 months" because Stewart hasn't expressed remorse, he said. "If Stewart says 'I'm sorry,' that undercuts her appeal. She's admitted she's done something wrong."

So far, Stewart and Bacanovic, 42, have not had much luck swaying Cedarbaum since their conviction. The judge denied two separate bids for a new trial. The first, made soon after they were convicted, argued that a juror, Chappell Hartridge, lied about his past during pre-trial screening.

The second defeat came after federal prosecutors accused one of their witnesses, Secret Service laboratory director Larry Stewart (no relation to Martha), of lying on the stand.

And, on Thursday, Robert Morvillo, Stewart's lawyer, failed to convince Cedarbaum that the federal sentencing guidelines are unconstitutional under a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. Cedarbaum concluded that the high court ruling last month in an unrelated case, Blakely v. Washington, does not apply here.

Assuming Cedarbaum does not go easy on Stewart, life for the fallen queen of domesticity is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Related links
Martha wants a break
Posh NYC condo sold
Sentencing delayed - again
More on the corporate scandals

Where Stewart ultimately does time is up to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which typically assigns inmates to prisons close to their homes.

Legal experts said she's likely to be shipped to the same minimum-security lockup in Danbury, Conn., where hotelier Leona Helmsley did time for tax evasion. Other possibilities include the low-level security jail in Alderson, W. Va., and detention centers in Brooklyn or Philadelphia.

Or, the feds could assign her to a prison with conditions that are considerably more harsh than the so-called "prison camps" where white-collar criminals typically go.

That's what happened to Lea Fastow, an ex-Enron official and wife of former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow, who on Monday was sent to a federal lockup in Houston. Unlike Stewart, who was convicted on felony charges, Fastow is serving a one-year sentence for tax evasion, a misdemeanor.

For all the uncertainty that still surrounds Stewart's future, this much is for certain: Prison is not some cushy "Club Fed."

Daily life behind bars, even in a minimum security facility, is highly structured and full of reminders that freedom is a lost privilege. Stewart will wear prison-issue khaki garb, bathe in communal showers and work for a maximum of 40 cents an hour.

That's a far cry from the $673 an hour she earned last year as CEO of Martha Stewart Living, assuming a 40-hour workweek and her $1.4 million salary and bonus.

Martha Stewart
Crime, Law and Justice

"For a CEO to be told when to get up, when to eat, where to stand and what to wear, this is a significant punishment," said Frenkel, the former prosecutor.

And, in a bittersweet coda to the saga that began more than two years ago, consider this: ImClone stock closed at $80.30 a share, up from the average $58.43 that Stewart got when she dumped her shares, reaping about $228,000.

Had Martha Stewart simply held onto her ImClone stock, that investment would now be worth about $315,000.  Top of page

  More on NEWS
JPMorgan dramatically slashes Tesla's stock price forecast
Greece is finally done with its epic bailout binge
Europe is preparing another crackdown on Big Tech
7 things to know before the bell
SoftBank and Toyota want driverless cars to change the world
Aston Martin falls 5% in its London IPO

graphic graphic