U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum said juror Chappell Hartridge’s failure to disclose his 1997 arrest for assaulting his girlfriend did not warrant a new trial. Stewart and Bacanovic said they were denied their right to an impartial jury because Hartridge concealed important information when he was chosen to sit on the panel. The assault charge against him was later dropped.
“The standard is very high for a judge to call for a new trial,” Howard Schiffman, a former lawyer for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said.
The ruling makes it more likely Stewart will go to prison soon after she and Bacanovic are sentenced in Manhattan on June 17. The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over federal cases in New York, has never overturned a verdict because of a juror’s failure to disclose information, Cedarbaum noted. Stewart, who founded the media and housewares company that bears her name, faces 10 to 16 months behind bars.
Stewart, the former chief executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., and Bacanovic, a former broker at Merrill Lynch & Co., were convicted on March 5 of lying to federal investigators about why she sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems Inc. Stewart unloaded the stock a day before regulators denied an application for Erbitux, an ImClone cancer drug.
Stewart’s lawyers, Robert Morvillo and John Tigue, said in a statement that they disagreed with Cedarbaum’s ruling, “as we have with other rulings made by the Court during the case.”
The defense lawyers said they would “raise on appeal all of the errors we believe deprived Martha Stewart of a fair trial, and we remain confident that we will prevail. We regret that a case about false statements was decided by a juror who appears to have made many false statements in an effort to gain access to the Stewart jury.”
Lou Colasuonno, a spokesman for Bacanovic, also disagreed with Cedarbaum’s decision, adding, “we still believe these issues have merit and present solid grounds for appeal.”
Schiffman, who’s now in private practice with Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinksy in Washington, said Hartridge’s concealment of his arrest record “is not going to be a significant issue” for appeal. “If it’s been a fair trial and a lot of resources have been expended, it’s very unlikely.”
Defense lawyers claimed Hartridge was biased against Stewart and sought to get on the jury so he could help convict her and profit by selling media interviews. After the trial, Hartridge told reporters the guilty verdict was “a victory for the little guys who lost money in the market because of these kinds of transactions.”
Stewart and Bacanovic contended that Hartridge would have been rejected during jury selection had he disclosed his arrest.
Douglas Faneuil, an aide to Bacanovic, testified during the trial that he relayed a tip from his boss to Stewart that her friend, ImClone founder Sam Waksal, was trying to dump his family’s stock in the company.
Stewart, who sold her ImClone shares immediately after getting the news, according to the indictment, was charged with lying to federal authorities investigating the sale. Prosecutors said she avoided a loss of $51,222.