Federal judge refuses to grant new trial for Martha Stewart

July 09, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK - A federal judge refused yesterday to grant Martha Stewart a new trial, paving the way for the celebrity homemaker to be sentenced next week for lying about a stock sale.

Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, brushed aside claims by Stewart and her former stockbroker that their convictions are tainted by charges that a Secret Service ink expert lied on the witness stand.

"Because there is no reasonable likelihood that this perjury could have affected the jury's verdict, and because overwhelming independent evidence supports the verdict, the motions are denied," Cedarbaum wrote.

The decision means a sentencing hearing for Stewart and broker Peter E. Bacanovic set for next Friday - already delayed twice because of the new-trial motions - is all but certain to go forward.

Legal experts expect Stewart and Bacanovic each to be sentenced to 10 to 16 months in prison, although Cedarbaum could allow them to serve some of the time at halfway houses or in home confinement.

Stewart's lawyer Robert G. Morvillo said he was "very disappointed" by the ruling.

Stewart and Bacanovic asked for new trials after Secret Service laboratory director Larry F. Stewart was charged with lying repeatedly during his testimony at the trial in February.

Prosecutors say Stewart falsely claimed he took part in ink testing of a stock worksheet that was a key piece of evidence at trial, and that he lied when he said he knew about a proposal for a forthcoming book on ink analysis.

But Cedarbaum rejected defense claims that Larry Stewart - no relation to Martha Stewart - was essentially part of the prosecution, and that prosecutors knew about the alleged lies in advance.

Larry Stewart was simply "an expert witness who was also a government employee," the judge wrote. "He was not a member of the government `team' which investigated and prosecuted defendants."

Prosecutors called Larry Stewart to testify about a notation of "@60" on a stock portfolio worksheet kept by Bacanovic. The defense said the mark was proof that Martha Stewart sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems Inc. stock because it fell to a pre-set price of $60.

The government said it was a cover story, and that she sold because she was tipped that ImClone chief executive Samuel D. Waksal was trying to sell his shares.

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