- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) - Martha Stewart’s attorney implored jurors yesterday to let her “return to her life” by acquitting her of federal charges.

“Martha Stewart’s life is in your hands,” defense lawyer Robert Morvillo said in closing arguments in Manhattan federal court. “I ask you to let her return to her life, and improving the quality of life for all of us.”

“If you do that,” Mr. Morvillo said, echoing the homemaking icon’s well-known slogan, “it’s a good thing.”

Lawyers on both sides concluded their closing arguments, and jurors were expected to begin deliberating today after they receive lengthy legal instructions from the judge.

Mr. Morvillo said “nobody is disputing” whether Mrs. Stewart was told ImClone Systems founder Sam Waksal was trying to sell ImClone shares. But the attorney maintained she had a sale agreement with her broker and was telling the truth when she told investigators she did not recall being tipped about Waksal. He is now serving a prison term.

Earlier, Mr. Morvillo insisted that prosecutors had not disproved the central defense element — that Mrs. Stewart and her broker had a plan to sell her ImClone Systems stock when the price fell to $60 per share.

Inconsistencies in the stories Mrs. Stewart and broker Peter Bacanovic told investigators about the $60 deal show it was not the careful cover story prosecutors have contended it was, Mr. Morvillo said.

“The government is accusing Martha Stewart of participating in a confederacy of dunces,” he said. “Nobody could have done what Martha Stewart and Peter Bacanovic are alleged to have done and done it in a dumber fashion.”

He also said Mrs. Stewart never would have risked her life’s work and reputation to help the broker in a conspiracy to lie.

Prosecutors contend the $60 story was concocted to cover the real reason Mrs. Stewart sold — that Mr. Bacanovic ordered his assistant to tip her that Waksal and his family were selling ImClone shares.

In a brief rebuttal for the government, prosecutor Karen Patton Seymour said Mr. Morvillo’s suggestion that a conspiracy would have been a stupid idea was invalid because it is “what white-collar criminals do every day.”

“Smart people make mistakes, and smart people do dumb things,” she said. “The fact that this wasn’t all tied up and perfect doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.”

Mrs. Seymour told jurors it was important to reach a conviction in the case because the nation’s criminal-justice system depends on making sure law enforcement agents are not lied to by suspects.

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