Martha Stewart Trial Set for Jan. 12

Martha Stewart (search) will go on trial Jan. 12 for securities fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements in the ImClone Systems (IMCL) stock trading scandal, a federal judge said Thursday.

U.S. Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum set the trial date after defense lawyers said they needed a number of months to review the government's evidence against Stewart and Peter Bacanovic, her former stockbroker at Merrill Lynch & Co (MER). The trial date is subject to change.

If convicted, Stewart, 61, could face up to 30 years in prison and $2 million in fines. Her next hearing is on Nov. 18 at which time lawyers will argue key motions.

Stewart returned to Manhattan federal court Thursday for the first time since June 4, when she was indicted and pleaded not guilty of securities fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

Bacanovic, who will be tried at the same time as Stewart, also pleaded not guilty.

Stewart, wearing pearls and a brown plaid blazer, seemed in good spirits before the hearing, waving and chatting with courtroom sketch artists. But she began checking her watch and tapping a pen on the counsel table when the hearing was delayed by the late arrival of Bacanovic and his lawyers.

After the hearing, she remained composed as she strolled through a throng of photographers as supporters shouted "We love you Martha."

The hope of catching a glimpse of Stewart bolting into court drew a large media crowd, some supporters and curiosity seekers.

Supporters and critics of the case charge Stewart is being prosecuted because of her celebrity status.

Several protesters stood out among the gathering journalists. They held up signs that said "Martha Stewart is a Good Thing" and "Stop the Persecution of Martha."

Linda Smith said she took a day off her job as a housing inspector for the city of Camden, New Jersey, to stand outside the courthouse.

"I just came out to show my support. I wanted to show her there are people out there who believe in her."

While Stewart has not answered reporters' questions directly, she is using a Web site to proclaim her innocence. It includes supportive e-mails — Stewart claims to have received 55,000 — and a statement from her lawyers.

Stewart has resigned as chief executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (MSO), the media and lifestyle company she founded, as the scandal made headlines around the nation.

She came under scrutiny during an investigation of her friend Samuel Waksal (search), founder of ImClone. Prosecutors alleged that Waksal sold shares in his biotech company in December 2001 based on confidential information.

They said Waksal planned to dump his shares before news broke that regulators would reject the company's application for its highly-touted cancer-fighting drug Erbitux (search) -- information that would cause the stock price to plummet.

Waksal was sentenced last week to more than seven years in prison -- the first chief executive jailed for playing a part in the recent scandals that have rocked corporate America.

Prosecutors allege Stewart sold ImClone shares based on an inside tip that Waksal was selling his stock. She then lied to investigators to conceal the illegal trades, they allege.

While the U.S. Attorney did not charge Stewart with insider trading, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (search) has filed a related civil suit against her, accusing her of selling stock on information not available to the public.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.