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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Martha Stewart Trial: Defense Rests

Lawyers for Westport’s Martha Stewart rested their case today without putting her on the stand. They called only one witness during a defense that lasted less than an hour.

Courtroom sources said they expected closing arguments will take place next Monday and Tuesday with the judge charging the jury Wednesday after which it will begin deliberations.

The lone defense witness was Steven Pearl, a lawyer who testified about notes he took during a February 2002 interview in which the government claims Stewart told a series of lies about the day she sold her stock in ImClone Systems.

The session is an important part of the government’s case, and the defense sought to use Pearl’s testimony to raise questions about what Stewart was asked during the questioning - her first interview with investigators.

One accusation is that Stewart falsely claimed she did not know whether there was a record that stockbroker Peter Bacanovic had left her a message on Dec. 27, 2001, the day she sold the ImClone stock.

But Pearl’s scribbled notes show Stewart may have been responding instead to a question about what time Bacanovic called her that day.

Under cross-examination by prosecutors, Pearl admitted his notes were incomplete, and that there may have been a question about the message log that he did not write down.

Referring to his notes and a memo he prepared after the interview, Pearl said: “Neither one is a verbatim transcript.”

There was no court reporter or tape recorder in the interview, and the government relied on the notes of an FBI agent who was present to charge Stewart with lying.

Lawyers for Bacanovic also rested their case today. They called five witnesses over three days.

The government claims Stewart sold her 3,928 ImClone shares because she was tipped that ImClone CEO Sam Waksal was frantically trying to unload his own stake. A negative report about an ImClone cancer drug soon sent the stock tumbling.

Stewart and Bacanovic claim they had made a plan before Stewart sold to get rid of the shares if ImClone’s stock price fell below $60. Prosecutors say it was simply a cover story.

U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum has yet to rule on motions from both defendants urging her to dismiss the charges in the case. She has indicated it is unlikely she will throw out all charges.

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Posted 02/25/04 at 03:32 PM  Permalink



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