Martha Begins To Face The Music

Martha Stewart exits Manhattan federal court after meeting with a probation officer following her Friday conviction, Monday, March 8, 2004, in New York. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)
AP
Martha Stewart arrived at a federal courthouse Monday to meet with a probation officer, the first step toward her sentencing for lying about a stock sale.

Stewart, wearing a black overcoat and carrying an umbrella, stepped out of a sport utility vehicle just before 11 a.m. at the courthouse in lower Manhattan.

She emerged about an hour later, and made her first public remarks since being convicted of lying about a stock sale, thanking viewers of her television shows and readers of her magazines and Web sites.

"I just want to thank everyone for their support," Stewart said, just before she was driven away,

She was accompanied by Robert Morvillo, her lead lawyer, and Rebecca Monck, another member of her defense team.

She could face up to 20 years in prison after her conviction Friday, but won't be sentenced until June 17.

A published report reveals that prosecutors last April offered Stewart a chance to plead guilty to just one of the four charges against her - making a false statement - in exchange for a probation sentence.

That's according to several unidentified sources quoted by Newsweek, including one who says Stewart turned down the deal when prosecutors said there was no guarantee she would avoid going to jail.

Eight women and four men deliberated 12 hours over three days before convicting Stewart Friday of all four counts against her - conspiracy, obstruction and two counts of making false statements.

Both she and her stockbroker at the time, Peter Bacanovic - who was convicted of obstruction, making false statements, conspiracy and perjury - have vowed to appeal.

"We came to the only verdict that was possible," juror Amos Mellinger said Monday on CBS News' The Early Show.

Mellinger said prosecution star witness Douglas Faneuil had a great deal of impact on the jury's decision.

"Certainly Mr. Faneuil was very credible," he said. "He was on the stand for four days, obviously under a lot of pressure, and it showed. But he managed to present his testimony and withstood the onslaught of the cross-examination. He was a seriously credible witness."

Stewart was convicted of lying to cover up the reason she sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems stock on Dec. 27, 2001 - avoiding a hefty loss when the company announced bad news the next day.

Until appearing for the probation meeting, Stewart had not made any public appearances since Friday's conviction but she has issued a statement on her web site, MarthaTalks.com, which is solely about the trial and includes letters of support from her fans.

"Dear Friends," Stewart writes, "I am obviously distressed by the jury's verdict but I continue to take comfort in knowing that I have the confidence and enduring support of my family and friends. I will appeal the verdict and continue to fight to clear my name. I believe in the fairness of the judicial system and remain confident that I will ultimately prevail."

Stewart - whose case has provoked a great deal of public discussion by those who think she was unfairly targeted and by those who think she was treated fairly - also thanks those who have argued her cause.

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the words of encouragement I have received from thousands of supporters," says Stewart. "It is your continued support that will keep me going until I am completely exonerated."

"We have a life destroyed before our very eyes," said Forbes managing editor Dennis Kneale on CBS News' The Early Show. "Obviously, the biggest person to blame is Martha Stewart herself. She told a fib.

"Before she went into trial, Martha was kind of easy to hate. She was rich. She was perfect and she was a witch," Kneale added. "Now I wonder whether public opinion will sway a different way."

"You always want to see Little Miss Perfect fail," playwright Wendy Wasserstein told Early Show National Correspondent Jon Frankel.

On the craft show circuit in Middle America, though, Stewart still has her supporters, reports CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

"I respect Martha Stewart so much," said Rosie Fitzpatrick, president of the Bloomingdale, Ill., Women's Club at a home and craft show in St. Louis. "She's a great role model for any woman, any business woman."

The board of directors of her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., was to meet Monday to discuss her fate, according to a source close to the company who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Stewart stepped down from her role as chief executive and chairman of the board in June after being indicted but remains as chief creative officer and a member of the board.

With her conviction, the government will likely press to have Stewart removed from the board, but the big question is how involved in the company she will be. Stewart's name, now tainted by a conviction, is stamped on a wide variety of products, from TV shows to magazines and merchandise.

Adman Jerry Della Femina, a friend of Stewart, said her company will survive.

"There isn't anyone last night who said 'We were going to have chicken pot pie from Martha Stewart's cookbook, we can't eat that tonight.' Or 'Get those Martha Stewart sheets off the bed, we have to go to sleep,'" Della Femina said on The Early Show. "The fact is she is a product that will survive."

Us magazine editor Janice Minn called the trial class warfare that was covered with glee by the tabloid newspapers.

"Basically, Martha is being made to pay for everyone who felt like they got a hard time the last year in the stock market," she told co-anchor Harry Smith.

Stewart's syndicated television show, "Martha Stewart Living," was taken off the air on Viacom-owned CBS and UPN stations Monday. The show appears on other networks' channels.