Martha Stewart’s pal, former ImClone CEO Sam Waksal was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison for charges including bank fraud and insider trading. What’s at stake. Here’s BusinessWeek’s Q&A.

Q: How serious are these charges, really, given that they stem from a stock sale that netted her less than $50,000?

A: Very serious. If prosecutors can prove that Stewart repeatedly lied and tried to cover up the circumstances surrounding her stock sale, she might face some jail time.

Q: Why is Stewart suddenly launching a public-relations campaign, given her relative silence over the past year?
A: At this point, she has nothing to lose. Prosecutors are already angry with her and seem determined to put the squeeze on for her alleged actions. With the charges now a matter of public record, Stewart is free to finally tell her side of the story.

Her recent ad in USA Today and new Web site may not sway a court decision in her favor. But it could generate enthusiasm with her fans and cement the notion that she’s being prosecuted because she’s a high-profile, successful woman.

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