If nothing else, the perjury indictment against a government witness in the Martha Stewart trial should provide the uber-homemaker with grounds for an appeal — but it doesn’t guarantee a retrial or an acquittal, legal experts said Saturday.
“It’s a substantial issue, and she had no other substantial issues for an appeal,” said noted defense attorney Edward Hayes, a Court TV commentator.
Fellow defense attorney Timothy M. Donohue agreed, but suggested it was not a clear-cut winner for an appeal.
“The prosecution indicted their own witness,” he said. “But the question is, ‘How does that apply to her?”‘ The accusation Friday by federal prosecutors that Secret Service ink expert Larry Stewart lied on the witness stand is likely more beneficial for Stewart’s co-defendant, Peter Bacanovic, than for her, Hayes said.
The pair were convicted March 5 of lying to federal authorities about why Martha Stewart peddled 3,928 shares of ImClone in December 2001 — just before a negative government report sent its price plunging.
Larry Stewart testified about Bacanovic’s alleged doctoring of a worksheet listing Martha Stewart’s stock portfolio, claiming he had examined the document on two occasions. Secret Service officials said that never happened.
Bacanovic was acquitted on the charge linked to the changing of the worksheet. Prosecutors said Friday that was one of the reasons they expected the other verdicts to stand despite the perjury charge.
Lawyers for Bacanovic and Stewart vehemently disagreed, saying the allegations merits a new trial.
“The arrest of one of the government’s key witnesses for perjury clearly demonstrates that the trial of Martha Stewart was fatally flawed and unfair,” said a statement from the Stewart defense team.
Stewart, on her web site, offered a thank you Saturday to her supporters — a group that she said has sent 40,000 e-mails with “uplifting messages” since her March 5 conviction.
Larry Stewart, 46, of Bethesda, Md., was released on $50,000 bail, with a return date in U.S. District Court set for June 10.
A week later, Stewart is due in court for her sentencing. She was expected to get between 10 and 16 months in prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, who presided over the trial, has already rejected one appeal for a new trial after defense lawyers claimed a juror had lied about a past arrest to land a spot on the panel.