- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Martha Stewart, in a Christmas message posted on her personal Web site, called yesterday for sentencing reform and took a swipe at the “bad food” in prison.

Stewart, who is roughly halfway through a five-month sentence for lying about a stock sale, urged fans to think about the women she has met in prison who are “devoid of care, devoid of love, devoid of family.”

She suggested Americans should push for reforms in federal sentencing guidelines for nonviolent first-time offenders and particularly for drug offenders, who she said would be better served by rehabilitation than prison.

Stewart, who built a billion-dollar empire in homemaking, reported that her job at the federal prison camp in Alderson, W.Va., has been cleaning, including sweeping, vacuuming and raking leaves.

“I have had time to think, time to write, time to exercise, time to not eat the bad food, and time to walk and contemplate the future,” she said on the Web site, www.marthatalks.com.

Earlier this month, her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, announced Stewart would host a daytime talk show with a live studio audience beginning this fall.

The company has been working with reality TV pioneer Mark Burnett, and shares of the company have soared since Stewart reported to prison — although they have fallen somewhat in recent weeks.

Stewart is scheduled to be released in early March, then must spend five months confined to her home in Bedford, N.Y. The television show is scheduled to air after the five months of house arrest end.

Stewart and Peter Bacanovic, her former stockbroker, were convicted in March of lying about why she unloaded shares of ImClone Systems Inc. stock in 2001, just before the price plunged. Both are appealing.

Stewart’s attorneys filed new papers yesterday with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, urging it to overturn her conviction. The appeals court is expected to hear the case early next year.

The new papers, like Stewart’s previous arguments, argue that prosecutors improperly implied she was accused of insider trading and that a government expert witness on ink analysis lied on the stand.

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