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Martha Stewart free, flying home


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Martha Stewart, when free from jail, must still be confined under house arrest.
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Martha Stewart

LEWISBURG, West Virginia (CNN) -- Wearing blue jeans and a knitted poncho, U.S. domestic icon Martha Stewart smiled and waved early Friday as she boarded a private plane following her release from federal prison.

Stewart, 63, was was released after serving a five-month term for lying and obstructing justice in a 2001 stock sale.

Stewart left Anderson Federal Women's Prison in Alderson, West Virginia, at 12:30 a.m., according to a statement released by prison officials.

Accompanied by her daughter, she arrived at the Greenbrier Valley Airport, northeast of Lewisburg in southeast West Virginia, 26 minutes later, and the private plane -- set to take Stewart home to Bedford, N.Y. -- took off about 1:10 a.m.

"The experience of the last five months in Alderson, West Virginia, has been life altering and life affirming," said a statement posted on the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Web site, www.marthastewart.com.

"Someday, I hope to have the chance to talk more about all that has happened, the extraordinary people I have met here and all that I have learned.

"I can tell you now that I feel very fortunate to have had a family that nurtured me, the advantage of an excellent education and the opportunity to pursue the American dream. You can be sure that I will never forget the friends that I met here, all that they have done to help me over these five months, their children, and the stories they have told me.

"Right now, as you can imagine, I am thrilled to be returning to my more familiar life. My heart is filled with joy at the prospect of the warm embraces of my family, friends and colleagues. Certainly, there is no place like home."

Stewart's plane landed in Westchester County, N.Y., about 2:15 a.m., and she arrived at her Bedford estate about 2:40 a.m. She will spend the next five months confined there, wearing an electronic ankle bracelet, and will then be on probation for two years after that.

Convicted a year ago, Stewart opted to begin serving her prison term in October even though her appeal is not resolved.

Her official prison release date was Sunday, but because it falls on a weekend, officials were allowed to release her early.

Details of Martha Stewart's house-arrest conditions were laid out Thursday by the chief probation officer for U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.

Stewart, must meet with her probation officer within three days of her discharge from prison, said Chris Stanton. The probation officer must decide when Stewart must begin wearing an ankle bracelet intended to alert authorities if she leaves her home in Bedford.

During her parole, she must wear the bracelet, which is to be connected via radio waves to a transmitter in her home. The transmitter is to be tied to a phone line that is connected to the probation department.

Stewart's departure from her house would break the signal and the probation department would be alerted automatically.

She is not allowed to roam her estate for recreational purposes, but could spend time on the grounds if her parole officer deems that doing so is "work," which she will be allowed to do for 48 hours per week, Stanton said.

Stewart led Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, the lifestyle company, until the scandal forced her to step down. She was convicted on criminal charges related to her 2001 sale of ImClone Systems stock, one day before the Food and Drug Administration announced it would not grant approval for Erbitux, a cancer drug produced by the company.

However, Stewart has undergone an image makeover that has surprised critics. Although MSLO distanced itself from her after her conviction last March, editor-in-chief Margaret Roach said Stewart will begin writing a new column for Martha Stewart Living magazine in April.

In addition, two television shows featuring Stewart have been announced -- a daily lifestyle program and a new version of "The Apprentice," both produced by Mark Burnett.


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