MOUNT DESERT (AP) – Many people in this island community where Martha Stewart owns a seaside estate think their famous neighbor got a bad deal when she was sentenced to five months in prison for lying about a stock sale.

They said the government used the part-time Maine resident as an example of what might happen to celebrity business leaders who behave badly.

If Stewart were an everyday Joe rather than a world-famous Martha, she would be vacationing at her Seal Harbor mansion overlooking Somes Sound rather than pleading for mercy in a New York City courthouse, they said.

“I think she got railroaded,” said lobsterman David Hyde, who has been fishing in the sound for most of his 70-plus years.

Stewart was sentenced Friday to five months in prison and fined $30,000 for obstructing justice and lying during a government investigation.

She was ordered to also spend five months confined to her home.

Townspeople in this island community have been split in their opinion about America’s most famous homemaker since long before she was accused of using insider information to dump $228,000 in biotech stock in 2001 before it nose-dived in value.

She received both compassion and criticism on Friday.

Ellsworth house painter David Lee, who has worked at Stewart’s Seal Harbor summer home, looked stunned to hear she was sentenced to jail.

“I don’t think she should get anything,” Lee said at a gas station. “She shouldn’t go to a federal prison.”

On Somes Sound, a group of sailors from a yacht club in southern Maine had varying opinions about Stewart from “snotty” to “an inspiration to women,” but they all agreed Stewart was used as an example because of her celebrity and power.

Many of them agreed that countless other people, men in particular, would not have been prosecuted.

“She should have gotten a $1 million fine, a slap on the wrist and then say goodbye,” said Perry Bradley of Freeport. “Putting her in jail for five months. What good does that do?”

Others, though, were unwilling to forgive Stewart, while others thought she got off easy with a five-month jail sentence and another five months under house arrest.

AP-ES-07-17-04 1242EDT



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