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By Samuel Blumenfeld

March 12, 2004

A small-minded jury with moral blinders convicted Martha Stewart of a bunch of non-crimes. Somehow, if someone provides you with "inside" information that could prevent you from losing money, you are supposed to ignore it and quietly watch your money melt away. To attempt to save it is now a federal crime. So Martha Stewart acted on the information she was given and, without much thought of the consequences and with lousy advice from her dishonest broker, hurriedly sold her ImClone stock.

Stewart was acting on information given to her. She did not build her wealth on a career of insider trading. It was a one-time fluke which involved a relatively small amount of money. When the FBI questioned her on this transaction, she said that she had a standing order for her broker to sell the stock if the price went below $60.00. Apparently, that was the alleged lie that the jury convicted her on.

Here was the FBI, which couldn't protect us from the terrorist attack of 9/11 in which 3,000 people were killed, trying to protect us from Martha Stewart. The alleged lies she told the FBI were not told under oath. She did not commit perjury. Apparently it is now a crime to tell a falsehood to a government investigator. That's considered an obstruction of justice. Whatever you may think of Stewart's action, she did not kill anyone or rob anyone. Her action did not result in anyone else losing anything. In other words, unless you believe that citizens don't have a right to tell a falsehood to a government official in defending themselves from self-incrimination, Martha Stewart committed no crime.

But the jury, convinced of the government's case against her and apparently not considering the destructive nature of that case, convicted her on all counts. And apparently Stewart's lawyers were so inept and lacking in dramatic imagination, that the jury was not warned of the considerable economic damage they would inflict on hundreds of employees and stockholders if they convicted Stewart.

And so, wearing the government's blinders, all they saw was Stewart as a criminal. Forget the fact that she is one of the most brilliant entrepreneurs of our time, that the creation of her fabulous business was the result of honest enterprise, and that she has provided millions of Americans with a fresh and delightful look at simple household activities. Forget that she is an amazing American success story, illustrating what anyone in this country can do, provided they have the stamina, intelligence, and brilliant ideas that such endeavors require.

The prosecutors, who are anxious to put Martha Stewart in jail, have never created anything. They are government workers paid by the taxpayer. They have never met a payroll. On the other hand, Martha has created jobs for over 500 young, talented artists, photographers, and writers. She has created an enterprise devoted to the simple idea that Americans want to beautify their homes and improve their tastes. And all of this may be destroyed because a group of small-minded jurors, who don't know what it takes to build an entrepreneurial empire, thought it was more important to convict Stewart of non-crimes than care for the future well-being of a thriving, creative enterprise.

Of course, along the way Stewart also acquired a reputation for being a workaholic and a bitchy boss. So what? Who cares? She's not Mother Theresa. She's a perfectionist. It's her public persona that counts, and whatever she does on television and in her magazine radiates a sense of good living. Her styles are available to the average American at K-Mart. But after her conviction, who knows.

The scorn and ridicule heaped on this remarkable woman by media commentators and Saturday Night Live is disgraceful and reminiscent of a lynch mob. Why do they hate her? What was her great crime? Being successful, mastering our capitalist, free-enterprise system.

But even if the accusations of the prosecutors were valid, the jury in its ability to nullify the so-called crimes she was accused of, could have acquitted her on the grounds that the amount of money involved was a pittance and that no one, not even the government, was hurt by her action. The stock sale involved no one but herself. Nor should it be a crime to lie to a government official in order to protect oneself from being indicted for a non-crime. The Constitution protects us from self-incrimination.

The FBI, which is supposed to be protecting us from future terrorist attacks, somehow found time enough to investigate Martha Stewart. Was the taxpayer's money well spent by going after this person? A lot of taxpayer money was spent to get this conviction based on a questionable philosophy of government.

Through her own creative efforts, Martha Stewart created an enterprise of great cultural and financial value. Her image alone was worth millions of dollars. The government has gone about not only destroying her image but also her company whose stockholders have now suffered substantial financial loss. And who knows how many jobs will be lost because of this action. Apparently the jury was not aware of what they were destroying.

In short, Martha Stewart created value. The prosecutors used their government sledgehammers to destroy it.

� 2004 Samuel Blumenfeld - All Rights Reserved

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Samuel L. Blumenfeld is the author of eight books on education, including �Is Public Education Necessary?� and �The Whole Language/OBE Fraud,� published by The Paradigm Company, 208-322-4440.  His reading instruction program, �Alpha-Phonics,� is available by writing The Tutoring Company, P.O. Box 540111, Waltham, MA 02454-0111.







"Here was the FBI, which couldn't protect us from the terrorist attack of 9/11 in which 3,000 people were killed, trying to protect us from Martha Stewart."