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Martha Stewart to Appeal  5-Month Prison Sentence - 2004-07-16


A federal court judge in New York has sentenced home decorating tycoon Martha Stewart to five months in prison, two years of probation and a $30,000 fine. Stewart, a one-time model, transformed a small catering operation into a business empire that included lifestyle magazines, television programs and home-furnishing products. She will not serve any time in jail, until her appeal process is completed.

Crowds lined up early in the morning before the courthouse opened, in hopes of getting a seat in the court room, or catching a glimpse of the celebrity entrepreneur.

A jury convicted Martha Stewart and her stockbroker, Peter Bocanovic, on March 5 on charges of obstructing justice and making false statements. The charges stem from Stewart's December 2001 sale of almost 4,000 shares of stock in a company owned by a close friend, ImClone Systems, just days before the stock plummeted.

In addition to five months in prison, Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, who presided over the trial, also sentenced Stewart to five months of home confinement after her release from prison. But the judge delayed Stewart's incarceration, until her defense team completes an appeal process to overturn the conviction.

After sentencing, Stewart made her first public statement since the beginning of her trial, calling it a "shameful day." She apologized to the more than 200 people who lost jobs at her company, Omnimedia, as stocks plunged and advertisers cut back in the wake of the scandal. Stewart stepped down as head of her lifestyle empire 10 days after her conviction. But she left little doubt that she intends to wage a tough fight, challenging her conviction in a federal appeals court.

"I will be back," she said. "Whatever I have to do in the next few weeks, I hope the months go by quickly. I am used to all kinds of hard work, as you know, and I am not afraid. I am not afraid, whatsoever. I am just very, very sorry that it has come to this, that a small personal matter has been blown out of all proportion and with such venom and gore. It is just terrible."

Stewart introduced Walter Dellinger, the lawyer who will handle the appeal. Mr. Dellinger indicated that he will focus the appeal on a key government witness, who has admitted to lying during his testimony. The appeal process could take as long as one year.

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