Martha: There's No Place Like Home

After being released from the Alderson Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, W. Va., early Friday morning, March 4, 2005, Martha Stewart waves as she boards her airplane at Greenbrier Valley Airport in Lewisburg, W. Va. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia) AP

It's get-out-of jail day for Martha Stewart, who has completed a five-month stint at a federal prison for women in Alderson, West Virginia, for her felony conviction of lying to federal investigators looking into a stock sale.

Stewart left the prison at 12:30 a.m. Friday in a two-vehicle motorcade and headed to a nearby airport where she boarded a private jet about 45 minutes later for the flight to New York, which arrived at about 2:15 a.m. Before boarding the aircraft with her daughter, Alexis, Stewart smiled and waved to reporters and fans.

Gone were her prison khakis: Stewart was dressed in a gray-and-white poncho, dark jeans and ankle boots.

While the lifestyle guru did not say anything to reporters as she left West Virginia, she did have a statement posted on MarthaStewart.com - within minutes - talking about her release.

"The experience of the last five months in Alderson, West Virginia has been life altering and life affirming. Someday, I hope to have the chance to talk more about all that has happened, the extraordinary people I have met here and all that I have learned," said Stewart.

"I can tell you now that I feel very fortunate to have had a family that nurtured me, the advantage of an excellent education, and the opportunity to pursue the American dream. You can be sure that I will never forget the friends that I met here, all that they have done to help me over these five months, their children, and the stories they have told me," she continued.

"Right now, as you can imagine, I am thrilled to be returning to my more familiar life," said Stewart. "My heart is filled with joy at the prospect of the warm embraces of my family, friends and colleagues. Certainly, there is no place like home."

Home for Stewart is 153 acres in the New York suburb of Katonah, where she has a large house with several smaller buildings on the property.

She will spend the next five months in home confinement, wearing an electronic ankle bracelet to keep authorities informed of her movements. Under the terms of her release, she will be allowed to leave her home for her job, for as many as 48 hours a week.

Besides guiding the company she founded, work for Stewart will include appearing in shows for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which will resume paying her $900,000 a year salary. She'll also be launching her own version of "The Apprentice" and will star in a revival of her homemaking show.

A horde of reporters and about 15 fans were on hand just after midnight in Alderson as a SUV carrying Stewart drove through the prison gate. About a half mile away from the prison a cardboard sign said, "Goodbye Martha. From fans and friends in Alderson, W.Va."

Keith Bennett braved the 16-degree temperature to see Stewart leave.

"I don't care about any of her stuff at Kmart or her flowers, I just think she's hot for her age," said Bennett, 43, of nearby Ronceverte.

Stewart, 63, has 72 hours after leaving Alderson to report to corrections officials in New York to be fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet so her movements can be monitored.

Some Stewart supporters traveled to Alderson to be there for her exit from prison. Linda Blaney, who lives in the Seattle area, flew to West Virginia with friends to display a Stewart brand floral sheet bearing the signatures of Stewart supporters.

"We want to make sure she knows we were there and let her know we support her," said Blaney. "This would not have happened to someone else. They slam-dunked her because of who she is."

Alderson, which has made a fair amount of money since Stewart checked in as an inmate, won't be quite the same without her.

"Every business in town profited," says Betty Alderson, whose husband is descended from the family that founded the town. Alderson's store sold over 1,300 "West Virginia Living, It's A Good Thing" T-shirts at $17 each and has printed up new T-shirts and mugs for Stewart's farewell, reading: "I Spent Time In Alderson, W. Va."

Residents are also planting over a thousand bulbs in a spot to be called "Martha's Garden."

Stewart meanwhile has a big transition to make settling back into more comfortable digs and the challenging job of resuming the reins in her business empire.

Stewart hopes to turn around the fortunes of a company that produces everything from television shows and magazines to bed sheets and bakeware. In 2004, the company suffered a loss and its revenues sagged, but the stock price rose considerably during her prison stint as investors bet on a Martha comeback.

During her time at the federal women's camp, Stewart maintained her lemons-into-lemonade attitude, making the best of her new environment.

She foraged for dandelions and other wild greens, concocted recipes in a microwave and even ate from a vending machine. She also participated in nightly yoga classes, spent time on crafts and writing and lost weight.

Stewart's release came one day shy of the one-year anniversary of her conviction in New York on charges stemming from her 2001 sale of nearly 4,000 shares of the biotechnology company ImClone Systems, run by her longtime friend Sam Waksal.

Prosecutors claimed Stewart received a tip that Waksal was unloading his shares ahead of a negative government report about an ImClone cancer drug. The stock tumbled in the following days, and Stewart saved $51,000 on the sale.

Stewart's lawyers argued the sale was based on a prearranged agreement with her stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic, to sell once the stock dropped to $60 per share.

Stewart was convicted of obstructing justice and lying to the government. Bacanovic is currently serving a five-month federal sentence for his role in the stock deal. Waksal was convicted on a separate charge of insider trading.
  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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