Martha Stewart: 'I Didn't Cheat Anybody'

In her first interview after a federal judge sentenced her to five months in prison, Martha Stewart told Barbara Walters that she cheated no one and hopes she will be vindicated on appeal.

Stewart rebuffed criticism that she should have shown more remorse or been more contrite during her trial. She said she believes the charges against her were "a direct result of something that was a personal matter. Not a company matter. … I didn't go and cheat the little people. I just didn't do that. We're all little people."

In addition to the prison term, Stewart was ordered to serve five months of home confinement and fined $30,000 for her role in a stock deal gone bad. The sentence has been stayed pending appeal.

Stewart said she was terribly disappointed at the sentence, but felt Judge Miriam Cedarbaum was fair.

"I had hoped for, at the most, some confinement, community service. And instead I have five months of incarceration, and five months of house arrest that's monitored. … But it could have been worse. … Five months versus 10 months or 16 months … That's a good thing," she told Walters.

‘Look at Nelson Mandela’

In an interview with Walters before her trial, Stewart had said she was afraid of going to prison. In today's interview she said she had prepared herself for the possibility, but said she hasn't given much thought to what life might actually be like in a federal prison.

When asked how she would handle prison food, fellow inmates and strip searches, she said, "I could do it … I'm a really good camper. I can sleep on the ground.… If it is looming ahead of me, I'm going to have to face it, and take it and do it and get it over with. And there's many other people that have gone to prison. Look at Nelson Mandela."

Stewart told Walters that she's more sad than angry at the two-year-long legal drama that forced her from the helm of her self-made multimedia empire. "Many, many people have suffered. People have lost jobs. I am very saddened and very, very sorry for that."

There Are Certain People …

Stewart said she was frustrated that a public perception persists that she was involved in an insider-trading scandal. Stewart was not even accused of insider trading, but of lying to investigators and conspiring with her stockbroker Peter Bacanovic to cover up a suspicious sale of ImClone stock two years ago. In March a jury found her guilty on all counts — conspiracy, making false statements and obstruction of justice.

Although she told Walters she's not bitter, Stewart said, "There are certain people that I wish I had never met. I'm not naming any names, but you can guess who they are. And of course you're angry. I lost my job. I have lost my position in my company. I am no longer the chairman and CEO of Martha Stewart Living OmniMedia. … That makes me both angry and sad."

The most damaging testimony against Stewart came from Bacanovic's assistant, Douglas Faneuil, who testified that he was ordered to tell Stewart that ImClone chief Sam Waksal — a friend of Stewart's — was selling off his stock.

Stewart said she had spoken to Fanueil over the phone but had never met him in person. She told Walters she couldn't comment specifically on his testimony but said she found it "quite interesting."

Brought Down a Notch

Stewart said the last 2½ years of her life have been a nightmare, particularly seeing her life's work undermined. "I've worked for 62 years, Barbara. I have been working and slaving and creating and building. This is a long time. … I wasn't born rich. I didn't become rich overnight," she said.

She said she felt she was the target of especially personal criticism because she's a powerful and successful woman.

During the trial, for example, the press scrutinized her wardrobe and suggested that she appeared arrogant and haughty to the jury. Even her choice of handbags was noted, particularly a Hermes Birkin handbag, said to cost at least $6,000.

Stewart said the focus on her handbag was unfair. "Do you know that that is my only handbag. Do you know that? Do you know how many handbags I own? And that I bought that handbag I think it was 12 or 14 years ago. I bought that for myself when I felt successful enough to buy a beautiful handbag. And it did not cost $6,000 12 or 14 years ago."

She said she was a particularly easy target because she had such a broad media presence. "I was on television 21 times a week with my wonderful, award-winning, Emmy-winning, how-to television program that was such a nice alternative to other things that are on television. This program teaches. This program informs. This program promotes crafts, and artisans, and artists, and paper makers, and gardeners, and hydrangeas. … How can you malign something like that?" she asked.

While Stewart said she doesn't feel she's a special case, she said she thinks she is being held up as an example. "I think that it really could happen to pretty much anybody. It really could. More to a well-known person, a celebrity, … or someone like I am, who's built this fantastic business … to bring them down a notch. To scare other people. This is what it's all about," she said.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...