Federal judge sets January trial date for Stewart

Friday, June 20, 2003

NEW YORK -- A judge Thursday set a trial date of Jan. 12 for Martha Stewart in the stock scandal that threatens her home-decorating empire.

The defense had asked for months to sift through the mountains of documents and computer evidence amassed by the government.

Stewart, 61, is accused of lying about her sale of nearly 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems stock. She dumped it in 2001 just before a Food and Drug Administration decision about an ImClone cancer drug sent the stock plummeting.

She and stockbroker Peter Bacanovic, 41, will stand trial together. They could go to prison if convicted.

Stewart arrived a half-hour early for the federal hearing. Stepping out of a black luxury car, she shielded herself from the morning drizzle with a tan-and-white umbrella as she ignored shouts of "Martha!" from a crowd of reporters and onlookers.

Dressed in a brown jacket with a subtle plaid pattern, light-colored slacks and a pearl necklace, Stewart waved to courtroom sketch artists seated in the jury box and took notes in a spiral-bound notebook during the hearing.

Her only words in court came when U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum asked whether it was in the interest of justice to delay the trial until January. Stewart stood, smiled politely and said, "I agree."

Stewart claims she had a standing order with Bacanovic to sell ImClone if its stock fell below $60.

Prosecutors say Stewart sold the stock after Bacanovic sent word to her that the family of ImClone founder Sam Waksal -- a friend of Stewart's -- was trying to sell his shares.

Bacanovic was scolded by the judge Thursday for arriving in the courtroom late. His lawyer blamed the delay on traffic and the media crush outside.

The crowd included two women who held stenciled signs -- one that said "Stop Persecution of Martha Stewart" and another that said "Martha Stewart Is a Good Thing."

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