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Martha: I'll Go Directly To Jail

Martha Stewart pauses while speaking at a news conference at her offices in New York Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2004. Martha Stewart said Wednesday she has decided to surrender for prison as soon as possible, citing the need to "put this nightmare behind me and get on with my life."
AP
Martha Stewart said Wednesday she has decided to surrender for prison as soon as possible, citing the need to

The millionaire businesswoman was sentenced in July to five months in prison and five months of house arrest after she was convicted of lying about a stock sale. The 63-year-old Stewart will do five months in a federal prison — likely getting out early next year — followed by five months of house arrest.

A federal judge allowed her to stay out of prison while she pursued an appeal, but Stewart asked to serve her time anyway. She said she wanted to get the matter behind her and her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

"I must reclaim my good life," she said.

"This is not a surprise,," said CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen. "Stewart hinted a few months ago that she would go in this direction and really it makes a lot of sense from a business perspective. By serving the sentence now, while the appeal is pending, she gives certainty to her company - a certainty that would not have existed had she dragged out her confinement pending appeal."

Shares in Martha Stewart Living rose about 3 percent, or 36 cents, to $11.50 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock had been trading around $19 per share before Stewart's name was tied to the scandal.

Immediately after Stewart's remarks, which were televised live, Martha Stewart Living shares shot up more than 12 percent, but they settled back down and closed up 12 cents to $11.26 Wednesday.

Stewart said she would miss her two dogs and seven cats, and hoped to be back home in time for the spring planting.

And she ended her 10-minute appearance with a joke, saying she was walking through Manhattan when a man spotted her and said, "Oh, she's out already."

"I hope that my time goes as fast as that," said Stewart, who grew weepy at the end. "I'll see you next year."

Stewart took no questions. But her appeals attorney, Walter Dellinger, said he still believed she had a chance to win a reversal of her conviction; the attorney had asked a federal judge to withdraw the stay of her sentencing pending appeal.

Stewart, who had promised immediately after her conviction to battle to prove her innocence. had recently appeared resigned to swapping her expansive suburban home for a jail cell. After her July sentencing, Stewart said she would have no problem doing the time.

"I could do it," she said in an interview with ABC. "I'm a really good camper. ... There are many, many good people who have gone to prison. Look at Nelson Mandela."

Stewart also said in July that was considering serving her sentence just to put the matter behind her and her company.

Stewart resigned as CEO of the company when she was indicted and gave up her seat on the board after she was convicted. She remains its leading creative force and holds the title of founding editorial director.

A Manhattan federal judge had allowed Stewart to stay out of prison while she pursued an appeal, although lawyers said she faced an uphill fight. The same judge had twice rejected defense motions to overturn the conviction, first because a juror failed to disclose an arrest record and then after a government witness was charged with perjury.

Her 10-month term was the minimum possible under federal sentencing guidelines.

Stewart was convicted of lying about why she sold ImClone Systems Inc. stock in 2001. Prosecutors alleged that stock broker Peter Bacanovic tipped her off that her friend Sam Waksal was dumping shares of his biotechnology company. Waksal had advance word of a negative government report on an ImClone cancer drug.

Stewart and Bacanovic maintained that she sold because they had a standing agreement to unload the stock when it fell to $60.

Stewart said she hopes to serve her time at a minimum-security facility in Danbury, Conn., close to her home in Westport. She would do her house arrest at an estate in Bedford, N.Y.

Bacanovic was convicted and received the same 10-month sentence.