Thoughts on the Martha Stewart Verdict

Dear Viewers,

On Friday, I was asked by two guests what I think about the Martha Stewart (search) case. Viewers also e-mailed me so here is my answer:

First, I don't have a single thought. I have multiple thoughts:

No 1: I hate to watch anyone – guilty, or innocent – self-destruct. Martha has done that. She has accomplished so much and now she finds herself convicted.

No. 2: She was convicted for a cover-up of a crime -- insider trading -- for which she was neither charged nor convicted. This is, of course, unusual but not unheard of. She got bad legal advice -- if it was advice -- to talk to the federal agents. This could have been her idea, but I would have done all I could to prevent this. It is not uncommon for people to lie in these instances – guilty, or not for the underlying crime under investigation -- and find an indictment for lying to federal agents. By the way, this is one reason we have the 5th Amendment. Having talked to the federal agents, she should not have lied. I accept the jury's finding she lied since I was not there to hear the evidence and they were. They also had the job of making that decision.

No. 3: I believe she was singled out for prosecution because she is a high profile person. The prosecutors have a right to single out high profile people in order to send a message to the community that criminal conduct cannot be tolerated. It is important that people get that message. A low profile person does not produce that message since no one will hear it. Cable news does not report such matters if not a high profile person, or a novel case in some way. And yes, while I have no opinion here since I have insufficient evidence, on occasion, prosecutors go after celebrities to advance their own careers. This, of course, is a bad motive.

No. 4: Had I been the prosecutor, I would have offered a misdemeanor plea -- or two -- to her. That would have sent a message and punished her (humiliation is a form of punishment). The media would have widely broadcast even a misdemeanor plea of guilty. If I had been Martha, I would have taken that offer. And, as a taxpayer, it would have saved us much money on a trial and ultimate incarceration. I am not in favor of crime, but I also like to be practical with limited resources.

No. 5: Many say the crime is victimless. I suppose I think that nearly right, but not totally. All crimes have victims. She was not convicted of insider trading but, as an aside, that crime does have many victims. The victims are the many shareholders who don't get that golden tip to save or make money.


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