By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated June 19, 2003 10:00 AM

Martha Stewart was back in Manhattan federal court Thursday morning — ignoring the rain and even shouts of support from fans crowded outside, while inside her lawyers dealt with some legal housekeeping.

The Associated Press reports that the domestic diva, 61, wearing a black raincoat and holding a tan umbrella, arrived with her legal team in two Lincoln Towncars and walked briskly into the courthouse.

Across the street, two women held placards reportedly reading, “Stop Persecution of Martha Stewart” and “Martha Stewart Is a Good Thing.”

The court set a date of Jan. 12, 2004, for the trial to begin.

Stewart, who has stepped down from her position as chairwoman and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and her stockbroker Peter Bacanovic, 41, were both indicted in the ImClone Systems stock-trading scandal, and both have pleaded not guilty to five federal charges that carry possible prison time.

Thursday’s court appearance before U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum was a status conference — a routine step as prosecutors and defendants take care of what they call “housekeeping” matters (basically setting a schedule) as they prepare for trial.

Stewart sold 4,000 shares of ImClone on Dec. 27, 2001, the day before the FDA declined to approve the biotech company’s new cancer drug. The government claims Stewart sold because she was tipped by Bacanovic that the family of ImClone founder (and longtime Stewart pal) Sam Waksal was trying to sell its shares.

Prosecutors say Stewart then lied to investigators about the sale.

Last week, Waksal was sentenced to more than seven years in prison and ordered to pay more than $4 million after he pleaded guilty to six counts in the scandal.