New Twist in Martha Stewart Case

Martha Stewart and Peter Bacanovic, her former Merrill Lynch broker, might have gone down together, but they will be sentenced separately.

Stewart is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, July 16 at 10:00 a.m. EDT at the U.S. Southern District Courthouse, while Bacanovic's sentencing takes place at 2:30 p.m., said a Court spokesman. The pair was originally set to be sentenced at the same hearing on Friday morning.

The sentencing split is the latest of many twists since the trial ended in March. Only last week Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum refused Stewart's request for a new trial on the grounds that a U.S. Secret Service laboratory director -- who happens to share the defendant's surname -- lied while testifying as an expert witness. Prior to that ruling, the judge denied the Stewart legal team's motion for a new trial based upon the false statements of juror Chappell Hartridge during jury qualification.

Although there has been some debate surrounding federal sentencing guidelines following a recent Supreme Court decision on state sentences, legal experts say Martha Stewart is looking at a range of 10-16 months in jail.

Legal observers say the sentencing hearing is unlikely to be the last chapter in the saga. Defense attorney Christopher Bebel was not involved in the case but gives Stewart a 50% chance of victory on appeal due to the alleged perjury of the government's ink expert.

"It's going to be hotly contested on appeal. The second circuit court of Appeals will have the last word on this issue and it could be reversed," says Bebel.

Bebel predicts that Stewart's lawyers will ask for a postponement of her report date to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons which he says usually occurs one month after sentencing. Following this request, he expects Stewart's legal team to request an expedited briefing schedule from the Court of Appeals so that Stewart does not finish her sentence even before an appellate decision is delivered.

Martha Stewart and Peter Bacanovic, her former Merrill Lynch broker, were convicted March 5 of lying to the government about Stewart's well-timed sale of about 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems ( IMCL) in December 2001. The founder of Martha Stewart Omnimedia ( MSO) was convicted on all four counts in the obstruction of justice case.

In March, Stewart resigned as an officer and director of the company she founded, but maintained a role by assuming the newly created post of founding editorial director.

Shares of Martha Stewart Omnimedia last traded up 9 cents, or 1.05%, at $8.65.

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