Martha Stewart on Trial

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto", January 20, 2004, that was edited for clarity.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Will Matha Stewart’s case hurt other women in corporate CEO positions? No, says Alexandra Lebenthal. She’s the president and CEO of Lebenthal & Company.

Also with us is Geraldine Ferraro, of course very familiar to all of you, former vice presidential nominee and a Fox News contributor.

And Barbara Corcoran, the founder of The Corcoran Group. I don’t know if she fidgets, but she’s got the best-named book on the planet now: "If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails, and Other Lessons I Learned From my Mom."

All right. Barbara, you are Martha Stewart, you are in there, the battle of your life. What are you looking for?

BARBARA CORCORAN, THE CORCORAN GROUP: I’m looking for sympathy, empathy of people who would understood my position. And I would try as best as I could as a salesperson to convince the jurors that I’m being given a bum deal here. That I’m being picked on, picked out, and raked over the coals. And I would want to get the jurors’ sympathy more than anything else.

CAVUTO: Who can be sympathetic to a woman at her height who was worth a billion dollars, and by almost all accounts, even those who were closest to her had a reputation for being a bitch?

CORCORAN: Well, first of all, I’m conscience of every eye movement and fidget that I make.

CAVUTO: Me, too. I won’t take my eyes off of you.

ALEXANDRA LEBENTHAL, LEBENTHAL & COMPANY CEO: If I look away, don’t think that that means anything. You know, I think that for Martha, her punishment, in a sense, has already happened. It has been like the pillories or the stockades of the colonial times, where the public embarrassment for someone who has been so focused and so conscience on her brand and on her image.

I think, though, that Martha is extremely well-spoken. She can connect with people. And I think that she knows that, as Barbara said, this is a time when she needs to sell.

In terms of who she’s going to connect with, obviously women are going to be a target area. But I think also that you can’t overlook -- you know, inside every blue-collar guy there may be somebody with a glue gun waiting to get out. And I think that she is really going to have to connect with everyone in the room. For all of us who have been on jury duty, you know that there are a million reasons why you can get disqualified, so I assume they’re going to go through a lot of people.

CAVUTO: There is this sense among very successful women I talk to in this country, Geraldine, that there kind of is a kinship with Martha. Even if they don’t like her personally, they feel that she’s sort of like a poster child for successful women who have made it in this country. I just worry whether that gets people away from the facts of the case.

GERALDINE FERRARO, FMR. VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. I think what happens is, so many of those successful women are looking at themselves and saying, make a stupid mistake and you find yourself placed all over the newspapers.

CAVUTO: But that happens to men, too, right?

FERRARO: Sure it can.

CAVUTO: Look at Ken Lay at Enron.

FERRARO: Absolutely -- well, those guys, you know, have already found themselves in more than one place. But I think one of the smartest things that Martha Stewart has done was go out and hire Bob Morvillo, who is her defense lawyer. I know Bob very well, and...

CAVUTO: He’s a barracuda.

FERRARO: Well, the thing that is very interesting, that everybody talks about what Martha Stewart should be picking out of the jury. Bob Morvillo, he was the one I’m sure who hired the consultants. There is no way that a defendant would go out and do this, no way they would be working on focus groups. I’m sure that when those focus groups were meeting he was watching.

CAVUTO: But in big cases this happens a lot, doesn’t it?

FERRARO: But it’s done by the lawyer on behalf of the client. The client, of course, pays. But the reason is, is to give you a little bit of an extra, you know, sense of where your pool is coming from.

Bob Morvillo is also going to be acting on a lot of gut reaction to those jurors. He’s going to watch them. And he has 30 years experience in doing this both as a prosecutor and as a defense lawyer. And I remember when I was trying cases, in the D.A.’s office, you know, 30-some- odd years ago, we didn’t have jury consultants. You went with gut.

You knew what was the type of person who would be there, watch how they look at you when you go through the examination on picking a juror. So the smartest thing I think she has done is hire Bob. And I think going past that, you know, as to the type of juror, I think she needs somebody who understands what the whole case is about.


CAVUTO: Well, see, that is where I think she has an advantage. I think most jurors, indeed most journalism and business (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you know, have a difficulty kind of seeing through this case what it is. But the ultimate charge that could stick is either securities fraud, obstruction of justice, not necessarily insider trading. In other words, the Watergate thing, covering up after the fact.

FERRARO: Well, those are the ones she is charged with.

CAVUTO: Right, absolutely. You’re absolutely right.

FERRARO: She’s not charged with insider trading.

CAVUTO: If she does go to jail for any amount of this, Barbara, what is this fallout, do you think?

CORCORAN: Well, first of all, I don’t think any of us have the stomach to see those beautiful blond bangs behind black bars, to begin with. I think we talk big, but a lot of people aren’t going to be happy about that. What will the fallout be?

CAVUTO: I bet a lot of people would. A lot of people don’t like her, Barbara.

CORCORAN: Yes, but for -- I think for such -- all the wrong reasons, having nothing do with the facts. The "B" word, as you -- I was shocked you said that it on the air, frankly. I didn’t think it was legal anymore.

CAVUTO: It’s not the first time I’ve said that.

CORCORAN: All right. But she is not liked. And perhaps she had a mistake in judgment. But what would the fallout be, back to your question, it would send a message out to American businesswomen that they better not be too famous, too smart, too wealthy, and too aggressive, or they’re going to get nailed.

CAVUTO: Yes. Do you agree with that?

LEBENTHAL: I do and I don’t. I think there is really an issue in this case that is different, certainly, from all the male CEO stuff we have seen, which is that this is about something unrelated to her company. Those other guys, you know, messing up Enron and Adelphia, and all of this, that was about their own company. This is about something unrelated to a woman who has been so entirely focused on her brand, which, by the way, has suffered, of course...


CAVUTO: Absolutely, big time. Very good point.

LEBENTHAL: But ultimately, I don’t think the brand suffers as much as we may think.

CAVUTO: Alexandra Lebenthal and Geraldine Ferraro and Barbara Corcoran, thank you all. We’ll see where all of this goes.

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