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  #1  
Old 03-17-2005, 04:02 PM
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Default Judge Questions Stewart Hearing Prosecutor

By ERIN McCLAM
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- With Martha Stewart looking on, a federal appeals judge Thursday sharply questioned a prosecutor about why no hearing was held into alleged lies told by a juror in the celebrity homemaker's trial.

The exchange came as lawyers for Stewart, freed from prison earlier this month and now serving five months of house arrest, sought to convince a three-judge appeals panel to overturn her conviction for lying to the government.

Stewart is basing her appeal partly on allegations that juror Chappell Hartridge lied repeatedly on his jury questionnaire, including about a prior arrest, in order to get on the jury.

Judge Richard Wesley, one of the appeals judges, asked prosecutor Michael Schachter whether the trial had been tainted because trial judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum held no hearing into the alleged lies by Hartridge.

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Wesley mused about why jurors might actively want to serve on certain high-profile juries: "I don't like rich people. I don't like people like Martha Stewart who are worth millions of dollars."

"The problem is, why did he lie?" Wesley continued. "And there is no answer to that because Judge Cedarbaum didn't do the hearing."

Schachter defended the judge and said the convictions must be upheld, saying Cedarbaum had no obligation to hold a hearing because the defense failed to show Hartridge was deliberately dishonest.

Stewart was convicted in March 2004 of lying to the government about why she sold nearly 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems Inc. stock the day before a negative government ruling about an ImClone cancer drug.

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The prosecutor also cited what he called "ample evidence" of Stewart's guilt - including evidence that her next call after selling ImClone was to Waksal's office, demanding to know why the stock was falling.

Waksal is serving a seven-year prison sentence after admitting he sold his own ImClone shares because he knew in advance that the government would decline to review the cancer drug, Erbitux.

Stewart was allowed to leave the Westchester County estate where she is serving house arrest to attend the appeals hearing in lower Manhattan. She is also allowed to leave her home 48 hours per week for work.

Wearing a black, pinstriped pantsuit that obscured the electronic monitoring bracelet she must wear on her ankle, Stewart appeared in a good mood, joking with marshals as she passed through a metal detector.

She did not speak with reporters before or after the hearing. She fought through a phalanx of cameras afterward - a crush so chaotic that several photographers were knocked into a bank of slushy snow.

The three-judge panel gave no indication of how or when it might rule. Stewart has said she is appealing the case to clear her name.

Walter Dellinger, Stewart's appeals lawyer, also came under intense questioning from the judges when he suggested the conviction should be thrown out because of perjury allegations against a government witness.

The witness, Secret Service ink expert Larry Stewart, was accused by prosecutors of exaggerating the role he played in testing a stock worksheet that was used as evidence at the trial. A separate jury acquitted him of perjury charges.

But the three-judge panel pointed out that the jury acquitted Martha Stewart and broker Peter Bacanovic of any charge that they lied when they suggested they had a specific agreement to sell ImClone at $60 per share.

"Had there been a conviction of `at $60,' it'd be absolutely compelling," Wesley said.

The judge then focused on trial testimony that Stewart altered a computer log of a message from Bacanovic just four days before she told investigators she had no recollection of whether Bacanovic had left her a message.

"Tell me how the ink expert makes that suspect," Wesley said, suggesting there was other evidence behind the conviction.

The government says the conviction is solid, and was based on overwhelming evidence. Legal experts have said it would be a long shot for the appeals court to overturn the verdict.

Stewart was released from a federal women's prison in Alderson, W.Va., on March 4, after serving five months there - the first half of her sentence. Bacanovic, a former Merrill Lynch & Co. broker, is serving a five-month prison sentence for lying to investigators.

Shares of Stewart's company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, were down 9 cents at $22.47 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. They traded higher than $35 as recently as late February.AP
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Old 03-18-2005, 04:00 PM
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Martha Stewart Lawyers Raise Juror Issue in Appeal
Thu Mar 17, 2005 3:36 PM ET



By Gail Appleson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A smiling Martha Stewart brought her campaign to clear her name to an appeals court on Thursday where questions were raised over whether a juror lied to get on the celebrity trend-setter's case.

Although Stewart's presence was not required, she joined her attorney as he asked the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out her conviction for lying about a suspicious stock trade.

Her defense says the trial judge erred by refusing to grant a new trial or even hold a hearing after information surfaced about possible juror misconduct.

Stewart's lawyers contend that juror Chappell Hartridge lied during pre-trial screening so he would to be chosen and made statements after the verdict showing he was biased against wealthy people.

The argument struck a chord with one judge on the three-member panel, who questioned whether the trial judge had erred. He noted the juror lied at least six times on the questionnaire used to select the jury.

"This was a trial of unbelievable notoriety," said Judge Richard Wesley. "The courts need to be careful to figure out why jurors might misrepresent their backgrounds for their 15 minutes of fame."

Also, the judge said Stewart should have had the right to confront the juror and ask why he lied on the form.

Wesley said the juror could have responded that he was too embarrassed to be truthful or might have said, "'I wanted on that jury. I don't like rich people."'

Michael Schachter, assistant U.S. attorney, responded that courts dislike bringing jurors back for questioning after a verdict.

Although many lawyers say her legal effort was a longshot, the judge's comments raised the possibility the trial judge might have made mistakes that could undo Stewart's conviction.

The slimmed-down Stewart, 63, strode confidently into the same courthouse where she was convicted. She did not stop to speak with reporters. It is extremely unusual for a defendant to attend appeals court proceedings.

During the hearing, Stewart listened quietly, clad in a black pinstriped pantsuit that concealed the electronic surveillance bracelet she must wear while under house arrest.

POLISHING A TARNISHED IMAGE

She served five months in prison for her March 2004 conviction on charges of conspiracy, making false statements and obstruction of justice.

She was released from prison on March 4 to serve five months home detention and is allowed to leave home 48 hours a week to work.

Since then, Stewart has been waging a campaign to improve her tarnished image. She's served hot chocolate to shivering reporters outside her Bedford, N.Y., home, chatted with fans over the Internet and held a highly orchestrated meeting with employees at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc that had all the earmarks of a political pep rally.

The founder of Omnimedia, Stewart built the media and merchandising empire out of a catering business. She has instructed millions of Americans in everything from tending flowers to organizing their closets.

Her attorneys are reportedly in talks with the Securities and Exchange Commission over a settlement that could allow her to resume the titles of chairman and chief executive at Omnimedia, titles she gave up in June 2003.
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Old 03-18-2005, 10:23 PM
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"The prosecutor also cited what he called "ample evidence" of Stewart's guilt - including evidence that her next call after selling ImClone was to Waksal's office, demanding to know why the stock was falling."

Sigh. If she had insider knowledge why would she need to call and ask why it was falling?

Sometimes they really confuzzzzzz me.
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