On appeal, judge is told to resentence Stewart

Entrepreneur hopes to see terms of home confinement modified

March 19, 2005|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

NEW YORK - Martha Stewart, who has been confined to her home since she served a prison term for obstructing justice, must be resentenced, a federal appeals court ruled.

U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum ordered Stewart last year to serve five months in jail and five months of home detention.

Stewart, who was released from a West Virginia prison March 4, told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that the sentencing guidelines under which she was punished are no longer binding on judges.

A three-judge panel agreed and, in a ruling late Thursday, ordered Cedarbaum to resentence her.

The appellate court said the guidelines, once mandatory for federal judges, are now merely advisory.

Stewart is likely to seek a sentence that doesn't include home confinement, said Gregory Wallance, a defense lawyer at the Kaye Scholer law firm in New York. She might ask Cedarbaum to sentence her to community service or probation instead.

Cedarbaum may impose the same 10-month sentence, and it's possible, though unlikely, that the judge could order Stewart to serve more time in jail, Wallance said.

The 2nd Circuit Court gave Cedarbaum the option of leaving Stewart's sentence unchanged.

Cedarbaum said at Stewart's sentencing that the guidelines required at least a 10-month term.

Afterward, Stewart, the founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., chose to enter the women's prison in Alderson, W.Va., before her appeal, to "put this nightmare behind me."

In a letter to Cedarbaum late Thursday, Stewart's lead appeals lawyer said he would provide the judge within 10 days suggestions for "modifications to the terms of her home confinement."

Those suggestions are expected to include a recommendation that the judge end the house arrest.

On her release from prison, Stewart was given an electronic ankle bracelet that allows probation officers to track her whereabouts.

She is permitted to work at her New York City offices 48 hours a week.

Stewart, 63, and her former Merrill Lynch & Co. broker, Peter Bacanovic, 42, were convicted of lying to authorities probing her December 2001 sale of ImClone Systems Inc. stock.

Stewart also is appealing her conviction. If she's successful, it would be overturned, leaving prosecutors to decide whether to retry her.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this article.

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