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Judge rejects new Stewart trial

Witness's alleged lie is discounted

NEW YORK -- A federal judge refused yesterday to grant Martha Stewart a new trial, paving the way for the celebrity homemaker to be sentenced next week for lying about a stock sale.

Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum brushed aside claims by Stewart and her former stockbroker that their convictions are tainted by charges that a Secret Service ink expert lied on the witness stand.

''Because there is no reasonable likelihood that this perjury could have affected the jury's verdict, and because overwhelming independent evidence supports the verdict, the motions are denied," Cedarbaum wrote.

The decision means a sentencing hearing for Stewart and broker Peter Bacanovic set for July 16 -- already delayed twice because of the new-trial motions -- is all but certain to go forward.

Legal experts expect them to be sentenced to 10 to 16 months apiece in prison, although Cedarbaum could allow them to serve some of the time at halfway houses or in home confinement.

Stewart and Bacanovic asked for new trials after Secret Service laboratory director Larry Stewart was charged with lying repeatedly during his testimony in February.

Prosecutors say Stewart (no relation to Martha) falsely claimed he took part in ink testing of a stock worksheet that was a key piece of evidence, and that he lied when he said he knew about a proposal for a forthcoming book on ink analysis. But Cedarbaum rejected defense claims that Larry Stewart was essentially part of the prosecution, and that prosecutors knew about the alleged lies in advance. He was simply ''an expert witness who was also a government employee," the judge wrote.

Larry Stewart, on leave from the Secret Service, has pleaded not guilty.

The judge previously rejected a new-trial motion from Martha Stewart and Bacanovic alleging that a juror lied about a prior arrest record to get on the jury.

Lawyer Robert Morvillo said the juror and the ink expert had committed ''unprecedented double perjury" that prevented Martha Stewart from receiving a fair trial. He is expected to raise both issues with a federal appeals court after the sentencing. Even if Martha Stewart is sentenced to prison, Cedarbaum or the appeals court could postpone the prison time until the appeal is heard.

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