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Martha Stewart opts for prison


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Martha Stewart: "I feel I am doing the right thing."
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- U.S. celebrity homemaker Martha Stewart, convicted in July on charges related to a 2001 stock sale, said she wanted to "put this nightmare behind me," and will voluntarily begin her prison sentence -- while still appealing her conviction.

Stewart was sentenced in July to five months in prison and five months of house arrest for her convictions on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal investigators about a December 2001 stock sale.

She resigned as CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia but still holds the title of founding editorial director.

She told reporters Wednesday that she was told her appeal might not be heard until 2005.

"I cannot wait until after the appeal," Stewart said. "It's the only way to reclaim my life."

"I feel I am doing the right thing for my family, my friends and my company," she said. Stewart said she had the full support of the company's management team.

Several company officials flanked Stewart as she made the announcement, including Sharon Patrick, president and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

"Obviously this is a very sad and upsetting time," Patrick said.

Stewart said her lawyer has written to the judge who heard her case with the request that the stay be ended, and to inform the Board of Prisons that Stewart is ready to serve her term.

Stewart said she would like to serve her sentence at the Danbury federal prison facility, mostly because it would allow her mother, who turns 90 on Thursday, to visit her. She had been released on bond, pending the appeal.

However, another of her attorneys said there is no space there, so her legal team has requested that she go to the federal correctional prison camp at Coleman, Florida.

"I know I have a very tough five months ahead of me, but I understand, too, that I will get through those months knowing that I have the ability to return to my productive and normal life, my interesting work and future business opportunities," Stewart said.

"I would like to be back as early in March as possible so I can plant my spring garden and get things growing again."

Her lead appeals attorney, Walter Dellinger, said he is confident that Stewart will win her appeal. "I feel we have compelling issues for reversal," he said.

The case against Stewart stemmed from her sale in late 2001 of stock in ImClone, a biotechnology company headed by her friend, Sam Waksal. She sold her stock the day before the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would not grant approval for Erbitux, a cancer drug produced by the company.

Waksal and members of his family began dumping their stock before the announcement, and he is serving a prison term for insider trading.

Prosecutors alleged that Stewart's broker, Peter Bacanovic, whose clients also included members of the Waksal family, tipped her off, too, prompting her to sell.

But Stewart -- who was never charged with insider trading -- insists she sold the stock under an pre-existing agreement with Bacanovic to sell it when it fell under $60 a share.

Dellinger, in a July 16 statement on Stewart's Web site, said, "This verdict should not stand. There are at least five major issues that we will raise in the court of appeals. Any one of them standing alone would be a basis for reversal. Together, they make a strong case that the trial was unfair."

The attorney said that since the trial ended, two landmark Supreme Court decisions have come down that will affect her case -- "one about the right to confront witnesses and one that calls the sentencing guidelines into question."


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