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Martha Stewart Guilty Verdict Brings Media to Westport for Reaction

News that Westport’s Martha Stewart and her former stockbroker were found guilty in their federal stock fraud trial brought members of the media scurrying to her hometown looking for reaction.
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A television satellite news truck takes up a position outside Westport Town Hall following the Martha Stewart verdict. WestportNow.com photo

On a drizzly Friday afternoon, however, reaction was not easy to come by.

Photographers and camera crews gathered outside Stewart’s Turkey Hill Road South home on chances that she would return there this evening. They found a private security guard in a red SUV sitting in her driveway.

The Westport Police Department stepped up patrols in the area but, as in the past with developments in the Stewart case, did not place a patrol car there, a police source said.

A New York TV station reported that Stewart left the courthouse and returned to a lower Manhattan building where her daughter has a penthouse apartment.

At Old Mill Beach, lights were burning bright in the home of Mariana Pasternak, Stewart’s friend who delivered damaging testimony during the trial. The press had yet to show up there.

At Town Hall, First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell was busy answering calls from reporters and doing television interviews. A satellite truck from a New Haven station took up a position outside the building.

“Any time someone goes to jail, it is regrettable,” Farrell told an Associated Press reporter. “But it affirms that the system seems to treat everyone fairly.”

The Westport official kept her eyes glued to a small television set in her office as she fielded the calls, occasionally turning the sound up to hear snippets from those being interviewed.

She said someone called to alert her that a verdict was imminent and she turned on the television. Others in the office came in to watch, too.

“I was surprised as anyone,” Farrell said.

She told New Haven Channel 8 that she knows Stewart as a hard working, driven, tough at times woman who is generous to Westport.

“She helped us with the acquisition of some very sensitive land on the shoreline, and she worked with other groups,” Farrell said.

Yet Farrell said keep watching. Stewart, who has made home living an art and become part of Westport lore, is not headed to jail just yet, she said.

“Looking at Martha’s life, this is another chapter but it’s not the end.”

The AP story on Westport reaction said some residents said Stewart “had not made many friends among townspeople. They described cold or unpleasant encounters. But nobody said they were rooting for her to be thrown in jail.”

“Westport businessman John Reznikoff said he thinks Stewart’s celebrity made her a target,” the AP said. 

“What I marvel at is the pleasure that people take at seeing rich and well-known people knocked off their pedestal,” Reznikoff, an antiques dealer, told the news agency.

“If she was an average housewife and didn’t have the financial means, she would have been acquitted.”

The AP said Stewart “has a bad rap among the town’s hair and makeup artists, said Danny Quaranca, a hair colorist at Artistex by Odete and Company.”

“She’s not the nicest person, but that’s no reason to put her in jail,” it quoted Quaranca as saying. 

The AP also talked to Michael Connelly, owner of the Country Store and Deli, who said Stewart wasn’t particularly friendly when she ran in to get a cup of coffee recently.

Connelly, 40, said he hasn’t been following the trial and has no opinion about whether Stewart should have been convicted, the report said.

“I have no reaction. I’m kind of on the fence with it,” he told the AP. “When she came in here, she could have been nicer.”

The AP later reported that about two hours after the verdict, a woman brought flowers wrapped in pink paper, to Stewart’s home.

The woman, a Westport resident who did not want to be identified, left the flowers with the guard at Stewart’s gate.

Nancy Sherter, who identified herself as a neighbor of Stewart’s, said the verdict was outrageous, according to the AP.

“There’s so much of that going on,” she said, referring to corporate scandals that have rocked Wall Street. “They targeted her because she’s a woman. I’m shocked. I thought she would be acquitted.”

News crews wandered mostly deserted Main Street during the evening looking for potential interviews, but they found more people willing to talk near Barnes and Noble on Post Road East, not far from Stewart’s home.

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