Monday, May 20, 2024


Text of Martha Stewart Letter to Judge

In a four-page letter written from her Westport home on the eve of her sentencing, Martha Stewart told U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cederbaum “my hopes that my life will not be completely destroyed lie entirely in your hands.”

The text of the letter:

Dear Judge Cedarbaum:

We have never had the opportunity to speak one on one, you and I, despite the fact that I sat before you for five weeks. I am sorry that the legal system is such that even when a person’s life is at stake – and for me that means my professional and personal life, not my physical being – the constraints prohibit conversation, communication, true understanding and complete disclosure of every aspect of the situation. I am not a lawyer, I am not skilled in legal processes, I am not even knowledgeable about many legal terms and legal procedures. I am still, after two and a half years of legal maneuverings and countless hours of preparation and trial time, abysmally confused and ill prepared for what is described to me as the next step in this process.

I am a 62 year old woman, a graduate of the excellent Nutley, New Jersey public school system and Barnard College. I have had an amazing professional life and several exciting careers, and I am grateful for that. I have a lovely family and a beautiful, upright, intelligent daughter (also a graduate of Barnard College), and I feel blessed and proud.

For more than a decade I have been building a wonderful company around a core of essential beliefs that are centered on home, family values and traditions, holidays, celebrations, weddings, children, gardening, collecting, home-making, teaching and learning. I have spent most of my professional life creating, writing, researching, and thinking on the highest possible level about quality of life, about giving, about providing, so that millions of people, from all economic strata, can enjoy beauty, good quality, well made products, and impeccably researched information about many hundreds of subjects which can lead to a better life and more rewarding family lifestyle.

I have been so fortunate to have collected around me a large and vital group of like-minded, wonderfully creative and highly motivated colleagues who also wished to fashion and build a company devoted to promoting these same values. By 2002 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia was a young, highly respected public company, with more than 650 employees, a group of extraordinary strategic partners, and a future filled with hope and great potential for growth. The company was fast growing, well run, well managed, and without debt and it was productively creating how-to information and consumer products centered on my original ideas.

I was often chided for being a “perfectionist” by my competitors, peers and the press, but the way we looked at our business was that we were “teachers” and what we taught had to be based in fact, truth and “highest standards of perfection”, a phrase I adopted from the American Poultry Association’s handbook, The Standard of Perfection. I have also been accused of being arrogant (as lately as this week on page 11 of the government’s answer to our request for downward departure), and I apologize for that. Perhaps, in my enthusiasm and in my quest for jobs well and quickly done I did not always take time to pat backs, or offer thanks for good work. 1 have been extra hard on myself and my work ethic and performance and I sometimes forgot that others need a bit more praise than I remembered to give. I am sorry for that and I wish I could always be polite, humble, respectful and patient. That said, many of the talented people who started my company with me still work with me, and many have been at my side. For more than fifteen years. One of the two original producers of our one hour daily television show, Carolyn Kelly, was buried this past Tuesday, a victim of a cancerous brain tumor. She was just 43 and the mother of three young children. The other original producer spoke proudly at the funeral of their joint contributions and their helping to shape the vision, with me, of a pioneering, Emmy award winning, and how-to television show. Carolyn’s death put my problems in perspective: she could no longer hope, no longer create. I could.

As a child I was drawn to me novels of Willa Gather, Upton Sinclair, Dostoevsky and Gogol. I loved Gather’s “My Antonia” and decided early on that even if I could not be a pioneer in a true “Westward Ho!” manner, I could attempt to forge new territories for American business. I knew what American homemakers needed and wanted, because I listened. Moreover, I was one of them, and very serious about the subject matter. I was not afraid to be curious, not hesitant to try new things. My books, all written after I turned 40, filled giant voids. They were widely read and the ideas within were happily emulated.

My vacations have never been restful sojourns, but always information gathering expeditions. Oftentimes I would take friends and children with me so they, too, could experience the wonders of the exotic, the beauties of nature, and the hunt for new ideas. My frequent trips to Japan resulted in the creation of a viable and wonderful omnimedia business in Japan. My trips to the Galapagos, to Egypt, India, Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Panama and Peru have afforded me and the company with myriad product ideas, countless columns for our publications, and masses of materials for cookbooks and articles, and even flower sources for

Because I intend to appeal the verdict, it is inappropriate for me to discuss the facts of my case in this letter but it is very important for me to inform you that I never intended to harm anyone and I am dreadfully sorry that the perception of my conduct has caused my family, my friends and especially my beloved company so much damage.

And here we come, of course, to the conundrum, the problem, the Kafkaesque confusion. What to do?

The problem is yours, but it is also mine. For you there are difficult decisions to make, complicated problems to solve, vast challenges to meet. For me, there are your conclusions to accept and consequences to deal with. And with all such massive decision making and problem solving come further challenges.

I ask that in judging me you consider all the good that I have done, all the contributions I have made and the intense suffering that has accompanied every single moment of the past two and a half years. I seek the opportunity to continue serving my community in a positive manner, to attempt to repair the damage that has been done and to get on with what I have always considered was a good, worthwhile and exemplary life.

My heart goes out to you; my prayers are with you, and my hopes that my life will not be completely destroyed lie entirely in your hands.

Respectfully and most sincerely,

Martha Stewart

One thought on “Text of Martha Stewart Letter to Judge

  1. What a dreadful miscarriage of justice. Who did Martha hurt? Why was good government money spent on this case? Why should further government funds be expended to keep her in jail? Something has gone dreadfully wrong with our justice system. The entire case is ridiculous—yet here is a good citizen being sentenced to prison while our president—who continues to lie and manipulate the facts—continues to be revered by a large portion of our population. It all beats me!

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