Stewart’s defense attorney fired back that such charges are based on nothing more than speculation and guesswork and are not backed by any evidence.
Seated at the front of a packed courtroom and wearing an olive-colored pantsuit, Stewart, 62, listened intently as the two sides presented their cases in the long-awaited trial of the woman who turned a catering business into a media empire, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia .
Assistant U.S. Attorney Seymour accused Stewart and Peter Bacanovic, her former Merrill Lynch broker and a co-defendant in the case, of hatching a plan “to lie to investigators and come up with a cover up, a false story” about her suspicious sale of ImClone Systems Inc. stock.
Seymour said the sale came after Stewart was tipped off that her friend Sam Waksal, founder of ImClone, was dumping shares in his own company.
The prosecutor, addressing the jury of eight women and four men, said Stewart’s reputation and the stock price of her multimedia company would have been severely damaged if the truth surfaced about the secret tip.
Stewart tried to mislead investors about the trade in order to halt the growing storm of negative publicity, Seymour said adding the lifestyle trendsetter stood to lose some $30 million if her company’s stock price collapsed.
“All of this was designed to lift that dark cloud hanging over her reputation … she was determined to put her own interest in front of investors.”
Stewart’s attorney, Robert Morvillo, countered that prosecutors based their case on “speculation, surmise and guesswork” drawn from circumstantial evidence.
“There will be no direct evidence introduced by the government that Martha Stewart conspired to obstruct anything,” Morvillo said as Stewart’s mother, daughter, sister and friends watched from the first few rows of the courtroom.