Some Final Thoughts About Martha Stewart

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I
recently received the following email:

I have just
read your article on the internet regarding Martha Stewart’s guilty
verdict. While I do agree that this 5 month sentence may be unfair
(it should have been more like a fine and community service),
the law does say that insider trading is a crime. Her mistake
was in lying about it, and that is wrong too. Haven’t all of us
made a mistake and then lied to cover it up only to discover that
the lie made things worse? That is what happened to her.

We all should
remember what our parents told us, which is to fess up to our
mistakes and take responsibility for ourselves. I too have made
some mistakes worse with a lie, but I alone paid the consequence
and learned from those experiences. Just because her offense
didn’t harm anyone else does not mean that she should be off the
hook. There are many instances where our mistakes do not affect
anyone else, but we still get into trouble for them. I have always
liked Martha, I watch her show and subscribed to her magazine,
however I believe that she became too arrogant in continuing to
deny her mistake. She should have just admitted what she did and
took her lumps just like the rest of us do everyday. None of us
is perfect, not even Martha.

Unfortunately,
the news coverage has given many people the wrong impression of
what happened in the Martha Stewart case.

In the first place, the law does not say that insider trading
is a crime. And she wasn’t indicted for insider trading. She was
convicted of lying (1) to federal investigators about insider trading
and (2) to the shareholders of her own company when she announced
that she was innocent of insider trading. She also was convicted
of conspiracy to lie about insider trading by making up a lie with
her broker, Peter Bacanovic. Thus she was convicted on three counts
of lying about something that isn’t a crime and that she wasn’t
charged with doing.

If the government can’t charge her with insider trading, what difference
does it make whether she lied about insider trading?

And, incidentally, if simple lying were a crime, we’d all be in
prison. Lying under oath is called perjury. Lying to a federal
official when not under oath is certainly no worse than a federal
official lying to you – which happens far more often.

All Martha Stewart’s alleged offenses were lumped together under
the heading of "obstruction of justice." What justice
– when no crime against anyone was being charged?

Even if you believe that Martha Stewart should go to prison for
lying about something that wasn’t a crime, you don’t even know that
she was lying. All you know is that a broker’s assistant,
Douglas Faneuil, was originally charged with being part of the conspiracy
only
to have the charges dropped
when he agreed to testify that Martha
Stewart lied. Why would you believe him and not Martha Stewart?

I have no idea whether Martha Stewart lied. Neither do you, and
neither did the judge or the jury. But what difference does it make
if she did?

You say, "She became too arrogant in continuing to deny her
mistake." I hope you never get convicted for something you
didn’t do – because the judge will probably increase your sentence
for being so arrogant as to express no remorse over a crime you
didn’t commit.

October
13, 2004

Harry Browne [send
him mail
], the author of Why
Government Doesn’t Work

and many other books, was the Libertarian presidential candidate
in 1996 and 2000. See his website.

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