Diva of domesticity ready for the ultimate lifestyle makeover

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The Independent US

Martha Stewart has had a packed summer diary. It has been parties and more parties for the diva of domesticity. Parties in the city and parties at the beach. Charity parties, movie parties. But there is a less enticing appointment on the page for 16 July. It reads: 10am, Judge Cedarbaum, Manhattan.

Martha Stewart has had a packed summer diary. It has been parties and more parties for the diva of domesticity. Parties in the city and parties at the beach. Charity parties, movie parties. But a less enticing appointment is on the page for today. It reads: 10am, Judge Cedarbaum, Manhattan.

By lunchtime, Stewart should know what her punishment is to be for lying to investigators about a dodgy stock sale she made in 2001. Almost certainly, she will be going to prison, for a while.

Maybe the thought of incarceration helped fuel her appetite for the social whirl this summer. Enjoy your freedom while you have it, she might have told herself, when she was convicted on 5 March after a long trial. There will be no champagne in the clink.

Or has she just been in denial? By most accounts, Stewart has still not been able to grasp how one deal ­ a sale of all her shares in a biotech company a day before negative news about its future sent its stock price tumbling ­ landed her in so much trouble.

Before this, she was one of America's most-admired women, with television shows, a publishing empire and, most of all, a reputation. Today, Stewart is a convicted felon. In theory, she faces between 10 and 16 months in federal prison.

It is possible that Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, who presided over her trial, will show leniency, possibly giving her community service. But Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor in private practice in Washington DC, thinks Stewart could have at least a year in prison.

The former domestic goddess may have done herself no favours by celebrating the social season so visibly. Judges look for signs of remorse and repentance when delivering sentences, so hiding behind the well-cut hedges of her Connecticut mansion might have been wiser than posing for the paparazzi as she did at the New York premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11.

"She's not coming across well," Edward Hayes, a trial lawyer, told The New York Times. "It continues to be all about her and she never does say anything about the people who got hurt. There has been no exhibition of remorse."

Stewart could end up at a low-security prison in Danbury, Connecticut, where the hotelier, Leona Helmsley, was jailed for tax evasion (she said she thought taxes were paid only by "little people").

The US penitentiary system has harsher places, but life in Danbury would still be tough.Jail work pays 40 cents an hour; last year, Stewart earned $673 (£365) an hour.

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