Westport Neighbors Feel Sorry for Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart may have had tension with her neighbors in Westport, but even those who described prickly encounters with the domestic diva said they were not rooting for her to be thrown in jail.

Town Hall employees ran to the only TV in the building Friday and gasped with surprise when they heard the jury had found Stewart guilty, said First Selectwoman Diane Farrell (search).

"Anytime someone goes to jail, it's regrettable," said Farrell, who was betting on acquittal. "But it affirms that the system seems to treat everyone fairly."

Stewart, 62, was convicted Friday of obstructing justice and lying to the government about the well-timed sale of stock she owned in ImClone Systems (IMCL).

Westport businessman John Reznikoff said he thinks Stewart's celebrity made her a target.

"What I marvel at is the pleasure that people take at seeing rich and well-known people knocked off their pedestal," said Reznikoff, an antiques dealer. "If she was an average housewife and didn't have the financial means, she would have been acquitted."

Stewart has a bad rap among the town's hair and makeup artists, said Danny Quaranca, a hair colorist at Artistex by Odete and Company in Westport.

"She's not the nicest person, but that's no reason to put her in jail," Quaranca said.

Stewart has a home and TV studio in Westport. She started a catering business here in 1972 on her way to becoming the country's most famous homemaking and decorating expert.

She also has homes in the Hamptons, Maine and Bedford, N.Y.

About two hours after the verdict, a woman brought flowers wrapped in pink paper to Stewart's home. The woman, a Westport resident who did not want to be identified, left the flowers with a guard at Stewart's gate.

Nancy Sherter, who identified herself as a neighbor of Stewart's, said the verdict was outrageous.

"There's so much of that going on," she said, referring to corporate scandals that have rocked Wall Street. "They targeted her because she's a woman. I'm shocked. I thought she would be acquitted."