Martha Stewart Gets 5 Months in Prison

The domestic diva vows "I'll be back" as she also receives two years' probation

Martha Stewart was sentenced Friday to five months in prison and five months of home confinement before two years of supervised probation kick in – a lighter sentence than the 10 to 16 months that had been expected.

Stewart also was fined $30,000, in a sentence handed down by Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum at Manhattan’s federal courthouse. Stewart addressed the jurist before her punishment was revealed, asking Cederbaum to “remember all the good I have done,” adding, “My life is in your merciful hands.”

Following the sentencing, a defiant Stewart read a statement to reporters. “Today is a shameful day,” she said. “It’s shameful for me and my family, and my company. More than 200 people have lost their jobs, and I want them to know I am very, very sorry.”

Stewart, 62, was convicted on March 5 of conspiring with her Merrill Lynch stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic, to deceive authorities probing her December 2001 sale of ImClone Systems stock. Jurors said she lied during two interviews with investigators.

Bacanovic also was sentenced to five months in prison and two years’ probation and was fined $4,000.

Stewart, wearing a black pantsuit and joined by her daughter Alexis, shed no tears during Friday’s highly emotional hearing, though her voice quivered at times as she spoke to Judge Cedarbaum.

In reaching her sentence, Cedarbaum told Stewart that she had been swayed by thousands of letters of support that the court received on Stewart’s behalf. She also said that she was sentencing Stewart to the minimum penalty under federal guidelines, and in fact was splitting up the sentence so that only five months would be spent in prison.

On Stewart’s lawyers’ suggestion, Cedarbaum said she would recommend she be sent to the Federal Prison Camp at Danbury, Conn. (Among those who have done time there is hotel heiress Leona Helmsley, who was convicted of tax evasion.)

For her home confinement, Stewart may be fitted with an electronic ankle bracelet that will allow authorities to track her movements. She will be permitted 48 hours outside of the home a week.

Outside the courtroom afterwards, Stewart also thanked the crowd of supporters who had been with her throughout what she called “a small personal matter (that) became over the past two years an almost fatal circus of enormous proportions.”

She also urged the public to continue buying her magazines and products, and added: “I’ll be back. I’m not afraid – I’m not afraid whatsoever.”

Following news of her sentence, shares in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. briefly surged by 20 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.

In the week before her punishment was handed down, Stewart reportedly failed to persuade Judge Cedarbaum to declare federal sentencing guidelines unconstitutional. The guidelines suggested a 10- to 16-month sentence for those convicted of crimes similar to those committed by Stewart and Bacanovic and who have no prior criminal record and do not pose a threat to society.

The Bureau of Prisons, not Cedarbaum, is responsible for deciding when Stewart and Bacanovic are to begin their sentences. Experts say that from sentencing day, it could be another six to nine months before they would go to prison, giving them time for their appeals.

Updated by Courtney Hazlett
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