How do you read the Martha Stewart indictment? Perhaps you read it as the story of a self-made woman who rose from obscurity to wealth and fame, and then for a comparatively trivial sum — or to protect her reputation, or (as the government contends) to help a friend — obstructed a federal investigation.
Or perhaps, reading the indictment more favorably to Stewart, you discern publicity-hungry prosecutors using technical arguments to advance their careers by charging an international celebrity.
Whatever your take, most likely you haven’t actually read the 41-page indictment itself, but only news reports about it. That’s understandable. Yet lawyers will benefit much from a close reading of the charges. Its tantalizing details are like clues on a wilderness trail that hint at what lies ahead, including conflicts that may have prompted hidden tactical moves and will surface at any trial.
Begin with these two remarkable facts: First, defendants ordinarily retain lawyers after they commit their alleged crimes. In contrast, all the crimes charged against Stewart were allegedly committed while she was receiving the advice of excellent defense lawyers at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz — one of the nation’s best law firms. Three times, in fact, the indictment’s chronology refers gratuitously to Stewart’s lawyers (though not by name). Second, the government charges that on one occasion a lawyer for Stewart actually, though unwittingly, helped her commit securities fraud.
Read the indictment at: http://www.americanlawyer.com/pdf/stewart060404.pdf