Federal judge rejects Martha Stewart's request for new trial

July 09, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK - Martha Stewart lost her last chance to stave off sentencing on criminal charges yesterday when a federal judge rejected her request for a new trial.

Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, of U.S. District Court in Manhattan, declared that the testimony of a government ink expert who is now accused of perjury could not have affected the jury's March 5 verdict in Stewart's trial.

"Overwhelming independent evidence supports the verdict," the judge said.

Stewart, 62, faces 10 to 16 months in prison after being convicted of lying to investigators looking into her late 2001 sale of nearly 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems Inc., the biotechnology company that was run by her friend Samuel D. Waksal.

Her former stockbroker, Peter E. Bacanovic, was also convicted on similar charges and is scheduled to be sentenced with her next Friday. Both had maintained that Stewart's trade took place because they had earlier agreed to sell if the price fell below $60 a share.

The ink expert, Larry F. Stewart, has pleaded innocent to two counts of lying as he testified about his role in analyzing notations made with blue pen on a document listing Martha Stewart's stock holdings.

Lawyers for Martha Stewart and Bacanovic sought a hearing to determine whether prosecutors knew that Larry Stewart, who is not related to Martha Stewart, lied on the stand.

An earlier effort to win a new trial based on statements a juror made on his juror questionnaire was rejected by the judge in May.

"We are very disappointed that Judge Cedarbaum has once again rejected Martha Stewart's request for a new trial without holding a hearing," Robert G. Morvillo, Stewart's lawyer, said in a statement. "We continue to believe that the unprecedented double perjury by both a key government witness and a juror prevented Martha Stewart from receiving a fair trial."

"We're going to continue to fight," said Lou Colasuonno, a spokesman for Bacanovic.

While Martha Stewart and Bacanovic appear to have exhausted the possibilities of receiving a new trial before their sentencing, their lawyers can appeal the verdict to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit once they are sentenced.

Whether that will prevent either of them from going to prison is up to the judge, who can order them to report immediately, set a future date or release them while the appeal is being considered, said Mark J. Biros, a partner in the Washington office of Proskauer Rose, the New York law firm.

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