Why Did Martha Stewart go to Prison?

By Prison Insight Staff

Updated: May 5, 2021

It’s always fascinating when a celebrity gets caught up in the criminal justice system. I think it really catches our attention because as an unspoken rule, it’s the poor who end up behind bars. When you have money, you can afford a legal team who can work wonders when it comes to getting a good deal. 

But when the crime you commit hits a public nerve, sometimes the rich and famous can be made an example of. I think this is what happened in the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal with Full House star Lori Loughlin. But even in that situation, she only ended up in prison for a few short weeks. 

Today, we are going to talk about super hostess and lifestyle guru Martha Stewart. In recent years, Stewart has reinvented herself somewhat. She’s now Snoop Dogg’s bestie and favorite pot brownie baker, but back in 2004, Stewart was behind bars in a federal prison for five months. Keep reading to find out the answer to this question: why did Martha Stewart go to prison?

In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:

  • Who is Martha Stewart?
  • What crimes was Martha Stewart convicted of?
  • Where did she go to prison, and for how long?
  • What was prison like for Martha Stewart?
  • Where is Martha Stewart today?

Who is Martha Stewart?

Martha Stewart is an entrepreneur and media personality who found success and fame through a variety of business ventures. As the founder of Living Omnimedia, Stewart has written a number of best-selling books, is the publisher of Martha Stewart Living magazine, and has hosted two syndicated TV showsMartha Stewart Living from 1993 to 2004 and Martha – which ran from 2005 to 2012.

What crimes was Martha Stewart convicted of?

In 2004, Stewart was convicted of charges related to the ImClone stock trading case. At the end of 2001, ImClone stock dropped sharply when an experimental drug they were working on failed to get its expected FDA approval.

It was later revealed that the company’s founder Samuel D. Waksal had warned his family and friends that the drug wasn’t going to get the approval, and instructed them to sell their stock. Many executives also dumped their stock before the price drop, and Stewart did the same. 

She had received a tip from her broker, Peter Bakanovic, that the price was about to drop. She ended up selling about $230,000 in ImClone shares just one day before the FDA announced their decision.

Because she knew it was coming, Stewart was able to avoid a loss of about $45,000. Her involvement would have never been discovered, however, Bakanovic’s assistant, Doug Faneuil, told investigators.

She was charged with securities fraud, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy.  She pleaded not guilty, explaining that she had a standing order with Bakanovic to sell her shares if ImClone stock fell below $60. 

Stewart maintained her innocence the whole time, but she was found guilty on July 16, 2004, and sentenced to five months in prison, five months home confinement, and two years of probation.

Where did she go to prison, and for how long?

When she was sentenced, Stewart requested to serve her time in either Connecticut or Florida so her elderly mother could visit. Her first choice was FCI Danbury, which is where Piper Kerman served her time before writing her book Orange is the New Black.

However, there were some concerns that Stewart serving her time at Danbury could cause a media circus. According to Distractify, the judge also wanted to make an example of her. So, he sentenced Stewart to serve her time at FPC Alderson in West Virginia.

Stewart began her prison sentence in October 2004. She served the entire five months she was sentenced to before getting released in March 2005. 

What was prison like for Martha Stewart?

Stewart – who’s rumored prison nickname was “M Diddy,” told The Today Show in 2017 that prison was a “horrifying” experience that no one should have to go through.

“It was horrifying, and no one — no one — should have to go through that kind of indignity, really, except for murderers, and there are a few other categories,” she told Katie Couric during the interview. “But no one should have to go through that. It’s a very, very awful thing.”

When Couric asked her if she learned anything or used her prison experience for any future good, Stewart insisted there was no silver lining. 

“That you can make lemons out of lemonade? What hurts you makes you stronger? No. None of those adages fit at all. It’s a horrible experience. Nothing is good about it, nothing,” she said.

Where is Martha Stewart today?

After her release from prison, the 78-year-old went back to work to expand her media empire and plan her comeback. She launched a new talk show, hosted a season of The Apprentice, and has released several more cookbooks.

Stewart has also released several more cookbooks, and teamed up with Snoop Dogg for Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party

“Although she was barred from acting as director for her company for five years, she continued to control 50 percent of the company’s stock and 90 percent of its voting stock,” Mashed reports. 

” In fact, during her time in prison, the value of her stock doubled, and she had become a billionaire once more by 2006. Today, she refers to her stint in jail as nothing more than her ‘horrible legal problem.'”

Did you know that Martha Stewart did time in prison? Are you surprised? Let us know in the comments below.


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