NEW YORK – It’s the day of reckoning for Martha Stewart, who is set to appear Friday morning for sentencing in the federal case stemming from her infamous stock sale.

As the lifestyle maven steps before the judge, the focus will no longer be “Martha Stewart Living,” but rather, “Where will Martha Stewart BE living?”

According to federal sentencing guidelines, Stewart faces 10 to 16 months in prison, experts say. However, Judge Miriam Cedarbaum could impose a range of terms including probation or community service to a split sentence of prison and home detention.

Her lawyers have brainstormed ways to persuade Cederbaum to fashion a lenient sentence, and if prison can’t be avoided, they want Stewart to be in a minimum-security prison within 500 miles of her home, sources say. Defense attorneys have also suggested that she be assigned to mentoring and teaching low-income and minority women.

Of course, only Cedarbaum knows what sentence will be given Stewart, who was convicted March 5 on charges of conspiracy, obstruction and making false statements stemming from her December 2001 sale of ImClone stock.

A possible clue about her decision might come from a 1992 insider trading case in which she showed leniency to a white-collar defendant, with one caveat: He expressed remorse for his crimes.

In January 1992, Cedarbaum had before her Dr. Robert Willis, a psychiatrist convicted of using inside information from a patient to make thousands of dollars in the stock market. Willis, who pleaded guilty to two counts of securities fraud, faced 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Cedarbaum imposed a sentence of 5 years’ probation, 600 hours of community service and a $150,000 fine and added, “I came very close to sentencing you to incarceration. After careful consideration of … your skill and reputation in your profession as well as many letters of the physicians and patients whom you have helped, I decided against imprisonment.”

In Stewart’s case, many legal experts say that escaping prison by expressing remorse is unlikely, given her circumstances.

“In a case of this magnitude, simply saying, “I’m sorry’ this late in the game probably isn’t going to do it,” said Jason Brown, a partner and chief of white collar litigation at Holland + Knight.

Brown, former chief of the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s criminal division, notes that Stewart is very likely going to appeal her conviction. This, he said, would preclude her from expressing remorse and accepting responsibility for her crimes before Cedarbaum.

“In a situation like this it’s always a very fine line the attorney and the client have to tread between expressing remorse and protecting one’s ability to vigorously pursue an appeal,” he said. “While the public may sometimes expect such apologies, they are not always practical given the inevitable appeal to follow.”

Brown said that under the guidelines, there is a possibility the judge could sentence Stewart to a split sentence, half to be served in a prison and the remainder in a halfway house.

In a decision made public Thursday, Cedarbaum denied a request by Stewart’s lawyers to toss out the Federal Sentencing Guidelines because they are unconstitutional.

Stewart’s former broker, Peter Bacanovic, who was convicted with her, is slated to be sentenced Friday afternoon.


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