Stewart meets with probation officials

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

NEW YORK -- Martha Stewart met with a probation officer and thanked viewers and readers for their support on Monday as the board of her namesake empire met to discuss her fate.

Stewart briefly addressed a horde of camera crews outside a Manhattan courthouse where she spent about an hour with probation officials who will make a sentencing recommendation for lying about a well-timed stock sale.

"I want to thank my readers, my viewers and the Internet users," Stewart said as she stepped into a sport utility vehicle. "I just want to thank everyone for their support."

The courthouse appearance came as stock in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia continued to slide and the board was gathering to discuss her future, according to a source close to the company who spoke on condition of anonymity. Her syndicated television show, "Martha Stewart Living," was taken off the air Monday on Viacom-owned CBS and UPN stations.

Stewart, wearing a black overcoat and carrying a Martha Stewart Living umbrella, was accompanied by her attorney, Robert Morvillo, and another member of her defense team.

The remarks were her second since being convicted. As Stewart left the courthouse on Friday after the verdict, the Daily News asked her to comment on the fairness of the trial. She replied, "The unfairness of the trial, that's the right comment."

The meeting with probation officials is the first step toward Stewart's sentencing in June.

After a series of meetings, officials will hand up a report to U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum recommending a range of prison time for Stewart. Most legal experts expect that to be 10 to 16 months.

The judge can allow Stewart to spend part of her sentence in a halfway house, or in home confinement. The law also calls for up to a $1 million fine for the four counts on which she was convicted -- conspiracy, obstructing justice and two counts of making false statements.

Stewart, 62, and former stockbroker Peter Bacanovic, 41, were found guilty of lying to investigators about why Stewart sold her shares of ImClone Systems stock on Dec. 27, 2001, the day before a disappointing government report on its cancer drug Erbitux.

Bacanovic also met briefly with probation officials Monday, but did not address reporters.

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