Published March 06, 2004
| Associated Press
NEW YORK – Her daughter was in tears but Martha Stewart (search) kept her composure, maintaining her reputation as a well-tempered etiquette expert even during the delivery of verdicts convicting her of obstructing justice and lying to the government.
But the scene turned chaotic as journalists stampeded outside to deliver the news in front of the columned federal courthouse in lower Manhattan.
Some wildly waved red banners or signs — prearranged codes for "guilty." That didn't prevent erroneous television news reports that the jury had found Stewart innocent of conspiracy.
Stewart had been forced to wait more than an hour for U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum (search) to arrive to read the verdict Friday.
Tension built in the courtroom as Stewart repeatedly checked her watch and twirled a pen in her fingers. The courtroom filled to standing-room-only with Stewart supporters, prosecutors, U.S. marshals, reporters and curiosity seekers.
Cedarbaum's reading of the verdict took less than two minutes, the four pronouncements of "guilty" — for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and two counts of false statements — coming in rapid succession. Stewart's jaw appeared to tighten and her eyes widened slightly, but she otherwise kept her composure.
As reporters broke for the door, the judge admonished: "Please — this is a courtroom."
Stewart heard the judge set a June 17 sentencing date before she stood and was escorted out of the courtroom by lawyers and a bodyguard.
Her daughter, Alexis Stewart (search), was in tears.
Afterward, juror Chappell Hartridge said he was "a little bit surprised" that the defendant wasn't as emotional as her daughter.
"I expected a strong reaction," he said.
When Stewart left the courthouse, several dozen bystanders chanted "We love Martha." A few even hissed when U.S. Attorney David Kelley came out to appear before TV cameras.
College student Daniele Frazier wore a button with Stewart's picture and a T-shirt emblazoned with "Save Martha Stewart" for the occasion. She called Stewart a scapegoat.
"I think there are a lot of other people who deserve this before her," she said. "I think a lot of the stuff against her is because she's a woman and a celebrity."
Stewart rewarded her fans with a hint of a smile. Then, as she had each day of her trial, she disappeared into a sport utility vehicle and was driven away.