NEW YORK – Celebrity homemaker Martha Stewart (search), who was convicted in March on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges, on Friday was granted about a week's delay in sentencing from the judge considering her request for a new trial.
U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, in an order signed on Friday, agreed to move the sentencing to July 16 from July 8, at the defense team's request.
The lawyers are seeking to have Stewart's conviction dismissed because a government witness at the trial has since been charged with committing perjury on the stand.
Prosecutors filed papers on Thursday night opposing the defense team's motion for a new trial and on Friday morning Stewart's lead lawyer wrote the judge asking for time to respond. The lawyer, Robert Morvillo, also said he plans to file papers seeking a lighter sentence for his client.
The defense team's effort to win a new trial revolves around trial testimony from U.S. Secret Service laboratory director Larry Stewart, who is not related to Martha Stewart. He has been charged with lying while testifying as an expert witness about ink on a worksheet kept by Martha Stewart's stockbroker. Stewart, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, is accused of claiming to have conducted certain tests on the ink himself when they were performed by someone else.
U.S. prosecutors said requests for a new trial "fail because they cannot meet their burden to show that Mr. Stewart's false testimony had any effect on the jury's verdict."
They also said there was "overwhelming" evidence that Martha Stewart and her former broker Peter Bacanovic (search) were guilty and the evidence was "wholly independent" of the lab director's testimony.
Martha Stewart, 62, who built a media empire on tips for gracious living, was found guilty in March of lying to investigators over a suspicious stock sale and is expected to face time in prison.
Her conviction for conspiracy, making false statements and obstruction was related to her suspicious sale of stock in biotech company ImClone Systems Inc. (IMCL) in December 2001.
Prosecutors charged that Stewart was tipped that ImClone's founder, Sam Waksal (search), was dumping his shares. The defense contended there was a preexisting deal to sell her shares if the price fell to $60.
The broker's worksheet listed various securities positions held by Martha Stewart and had Bacanovic's handwritten notations, including one to sell ImClone "at 60."
But Martha Stewart's lawyers, in papers filed last week, demanded a new trial, saying "the government's election to call Larry Stewart as a witness and to present his testimony at trial produced error of constitutional dimension."