Martha Stewart asked a federal judge to toss out her conviction for obstructing justice, arguing that she didn’t get a fair trial because a government witness lied.
Stewart faces up to 16 months in prison for hindering investigations into why she sold her ImClone Systems Inc. stock a day before U.S. regulators rejected the company’s colon cancer drug. Last month prosecutors accused their own witness, Larry Stewart, the former chief forensic scientist for the U.S. Secret Service, of lying at her trial. He’s charged with perjury.
For Martha Stewart, it’s the second bid to set aside her conviction since a Manhattan federal court jury found her guilty on March 5. The defense previously sought a new trial because a juror failed to disclose a 1997 arrest for assaulting his girlfriend. U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum denied that request last month.
Stewart and her former Merrill Lynch & Co. broker, Peter Bacanovic, must show there was “a reasonable chance that the outcome” would have been different had Larry Stewart testified truthfully, Fordham University law professor James Cohen said. “It doesn’t have any traction,” he said of the claim.
For Martha Stewart, overturning the verdict will be “difficult if not impossible” because the allegedly perjured testimony didn’t concern her, Cohen said. Bacanovic will also have a hard time because he was acquitted of the false documents charge supported by Larry Stewart’s testimony, Cohen said.
Stewart and Bacanovic were convicted of deceiving investigators examining her ImClone stock sale. Jurors concluded she lied when she said the reason she dumped her shares on Dec. 27, 2001, was because she and Bacanovic had a standing agreement to sell when ImClone fell below $60.