Martha Stewart Reports to Prison
Domestic Diva Begins Serving Five-Month Term in West Virginia
By APRIL VITELLO, AP
ALDERSON, W.Va. (Oct. 8) - Martha Stewart reported to prison before sunrise Friday to begin serving a five-month sentence for lying about a stock sale, slipping all but unnoticed past waiting supporters and reporters.
The celebrity homemaker said on her Web site that she was looking forward to returning to work in March and enjoying ''many brighter days ahead.''
Stewart, 63, was convicted in March of lying to investigators about why she sold stock in a biotech drug maker in December 2001, just before its price plunged. She was allowed to remain free pending appeal but asked to begin serving her time anyway, saying she wanted to reclaim her life.
Stewart is to remain at the prison until March. Inmates who are sentenced to a year or less are not eligible for early release because of good behavior.
''While I am away, my updates here will be less frequent, if not altogether impossible,'' Stewart said in a letter posted on her Web site. ''But please know this change is only an unfortunate reflection of my current circumstances, and in no way diminishes my commitment to my life's work or to the friends, colleagues, customers and supporters who make it possible.
''With your good wishes in my heart, I am looking forward to being back at work in March, and to many brighter days ahead.''
The promise of her arrival in Alderson lured five students to skip morning classes at the Beckley Beauty Academy. Stewart was already inside the prison when the students arrived, clad in beautician smocks, but they said they planned to return when she is released.
''I think she rocks. If she needs her hair done while she's here, she should call,'' Leighann Alderman said.
Stewart, who built a business empire dedicated to stylish living that includes magazines, television shows and a line of home fashions, has said she will miss her pets during her stay in prison, but hoped to be free in time for spring gardening.
Following her prison term, Stewart must serve five months of home confinement.
While in prison, Stewart will forgo five months of her $900,000 yearly base pay from her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. An employment contract approved Sept. 17 says the company will resume paying her when she leaves prison and is on home confinement.
Behind bars, Stewart will be eligible for jobs that pay 12 cents to 40 cents an hour.
Shares of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia were down 69 cents, or 4.2 percent, at $15.90 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. It had spiked as high as $19.60 last month, but is still well above its 52-week low of $8.25.
Famous inmates are nothing new to the town of Alderson, about 270 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. The prison, which opened in 1927, has hosted Billie Holiday, Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally and would-be presidential assassins Squeaky Fromme and Sara Jane Moore.
Stewart and her former stockbroker Peter Bacanovic were convicted in March of lying to federal investigators about why Stewart sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems Inc. stock on Dec. 27, 2001, the day before a negative announcement about the company that sent the price plunging.
She was sentenced in July to five months in prison and five months of house arrest for obstruction of justice, false statements and for the conspiracy to obstruct justice, make false statements, and commit perjury.
She was allowed to stay free pending appeal but decided to begin serving her time before the appeal was resolved.
''As I announced in September, although my lawyers remain very confident in the strength of my appeal and will continue to pursue it on my behalf, I have decided to serve my sentence now because I want to put this nightmare behind me as quickly as possible for the good of my family and my company,'' the statement on Stewart's Web site said.
Bacanovic received the same sentence. He remains free during his appeal and has announced no plans to enter prison.