View from Lodi, CA: Masticating Martha
June 13, 2003, 05:00 AM
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If opposites attract, then Martha Stewart and I are a match made in heaven.

Because of our differences, Stewart has fascinated me for the longest time. I read "Martha Stewart Living" and I watch "From Martha's Kitchen."

Stewart likes to bake; I'm a chowhound. She likes things just so; I'm a slob. Stewart loves to make lots and lots of money; I dropped out from the big bucks game two decades ago.

Regarding money, as everyone now knows, Stewart is in an unpleasant spot. She has been indicted on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and securities fraud regarding the 2001 sale of her ImClone stock.

The Stewart mess reminds me of the tribulations many years ago of a good New York friend who I'll call Henry.

Henry had a highly visible job in a prominent New York municipal agency. During the late 1970s in Manhattan, everyone was looking for an edge.  Several big shot city employees were caught peddling influence.

Henry, painted with the same brush as the rest of the ne'er-do-wells, found his picture on the front page of the New York Times, the New York Post and the New York Daily News. He was summoned downtown to the district attorney's office, indicted, fingerprinted and asked to surrender his passport.

Although many of Henry's friends abandoned him, I often called to commiserate. "Let's not worry too much right now," he said. "Don't forget, an indictment is the first step in the process. I'm worried about the last step."

Henry's saga has a bittersweet ending. After an extended period during which Henry paid three lawyers the 2003 equivalent of $500 an hour for countless hours preparing his defense, he was acquitted.

That news never made the paper.

During Henry's long wait for his trail, the I.R.S. sent its vultures to audit his taxes.

In the end, to pay off his legal and IRS debts, Henry sold his house. A family business was also sold. Henry left New York, relocated in a small New England town and started life anew.

That is the bitter part of Henry's tale. The sweet part is that he was found innocent and therefore didn't go to jail.

Martha Stewart will not be so lucky. She'll do time.

By not leveling insider-trading charges against Stewart (since Stewart had no fiduciary relationship with ImClone, she isn't an "insider"), the government has tipped its hand that it is looking for a conviction.

And, as the old saying goes, when the guns are loaded, you can be sure they will go off.

Why public figures like Stewart lie under pressure remains a mystery. Their lies are uncovered sooner rather than later. And when they are, the bottom always falls out.

The key question now is not so much what might become of Stewart but what is the real significance of her case.

The discredited New York Times can still come up with the occasional good piece as reporter Kurt Eichenwald did in his June 5th story titled "Prosecutors Have Reasons for Stalking Celebrities."

Having interviewed several prosecutors, Eichenwald concluded that in their minds, "The purpose of law enforcement is not simply to punish people for crimes they have committed but to deter crimes that are being contemplated."

And Eichenwald adds, "Even if the government fails to obtain a conviction, aggressive corporate executives—having seen the price Ms. Stewart paid—will be far more careful about approaching the line that defines obstruction of justice."

Is Martha Stewart a celebrity sacrificial lamb for eager-beaver prosecutors who want to use the law as a sledgehammer to keep people in line?

If the answer to that question interests you, I refer you to VDARE.COM columnist Paul Craig Roberts' essay entitled "The Growing Problem of Wrongful Conviction."

The final absurdity in the Martha Stewart farce would be Stewart in jail. What does spending a small fortune to prosecute Stewart, then adding to those taxpayer expenses by $50,000 per annum to incarcerate her accomplish?

If Stewart is found guilty, then sentence her to become a roving advisor to "chefs" in school cafeterias across American. Let Stewart teach them how to cook an edible lunch.

Or better yet, send her to Lodi to organize my garage.

That'll teach her!

[Joenote to VDARE.COM readers: Despite considerable research, Martha Stewart's position on immigration remains unknown. A Google search for Stewart +Immigration did not yield tangible results.]

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.