An Exclusive to Martha Moments
An Imaginary Transcription by Alexandra Mark, Ph.D.

My name is James Comey, and I am the prosecutor who brought down Martha Stewart. It’s not so easy to send an icon to jail; it took me years of relentless pursuit. But I said I would do it, and I did it. This is the first time I am speaking out publicly; no holds barred. My strategy was brilliant, if I do say so myself.

I guess you could say it all started with the guys over at Merrill Lynch. The FBI was after Sam Waksal for selling his own ImClone stock before the news of the FDA’s rejection of his drug Erbitux hit the fan. “What’s with you guys?” Sam had said. “I only sold a small fraction of my holdings; so what’s the big deal?”

I didn’t much care about old Sam; I knew they’d get him because he handed the feds his head on a platter. Then the most incredible thing happened at Merrill. A compliance officer was rifling through the trades and Martha Stewart’s name popped up. The ice princess herself; beautiful, untouchable, fabulously rich – and a friend of Sam Waksal’s. She had to be guilty. But I didn’t get first crack at her because she was interrogated by the FBI’s Agent Farmer.

Good thing Farmer didn’t bother to take good notes, or put Martha under oath. That meant we could create our own reality. We prosecutors thrive on confusion; puts the defense in a weak position. Martha’s lawyers were looking for common sense, poor slobs.

Nice guys, though.

Anyhow, after the FBI got through with her they dumped the case in the lap of a Congressional Sub- Committee on Energy and Commerce. Man, did they ever jump to the beat! “Martha Stewart?” Representative Jim Greenwood, a ranking member, asked incredulously. “You mean THE Martha Stewart?”

Four Commission members sprang into action but the public relations part Greenwood kept for himself. When he went on television and said with a straight face that Congress was only trying to protect the public’s interest, he almost convinced me. I understand his mom was really thrilled to see her boy on so many prime time TV shows.

Jim was rocking: “We’ll squeeze the truth out of the Greedy One,” he told everyone who would listen. Then he invited Martha to testify before his committee, an intrepid group, known for cutting white collar criminals off at the pass. She actually rejected his offer. Boy was his nose out of joint; I’m told the guy was smoking!

So he writes this letter to the Justice Department and demands that Aschcroft prosecute her. A few days later, the Attorney General calls me and says, “Jim, it’s time for you to step up to the plate. You’re the one guy who can hit the Stewart case out of the ballpark.” How could I refuse? So I had to give up pursuing terrorists to take on Martha for the good of the country. Sure, I know our rules say that we are supposed to seek justice first, not prosecutions. Well, I did seek Justice - and I got it: They made me number two man under Ashcroft. And justice by any other name is still justice. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I soon discovered that I had a willing media to manipulate. “We build ‘em up, and we tear them down,” they boasted. And man, together did we ever do a job on Martha’s reputation. Do you know what it would cost to buy that kind of publicity? Getting the grand jury to indict was a cakewalk. The New York jury pool was thoroughly polluted. Good thing the proceedings are secret, because by the time we got through testifying most jurors believed that, short of murder, Martha was the reincarnation of Al Capone.

I prided myself that with my full head of hair, and my rugged good looks, and great height – did you know I am almost 7 feet tall? – I would be great on TV. I guess I really was, because a lot of people asked me what office I was running for. Anyhow, the first thing I did was announce that Martha’s case was all about insider trading, a nasty crime I pointed out, where the rich rob innocent poor folks of their savings. Fortunately, nobody asked me to explain how. The media bought it. But the SEC’s rules were too complicated for the public to understand– actually they’re tough even for the SEC. They like it that way, though; leaves the door open to selective prosecutions. For months we were spinning our wheels until I came up with a killer idea. Martha Stewart had insisted she was innocent – a really dumb thing to do. So I accused her of trying to prop up her own company’s stock price – made it sound lethal, and the media took the bait. Even the judge noted that it was a “novel” charge, but it translated into Count Nine - Securities fraud. “Martha, I said to myself, it’s the slammer for you. She didn’t go quietly. Her lawyers thought we were kidding – right up to the end. We let them think we were bumbling nincompoops; disarmed the hell out of them.

Unfortunately the crime of insider trading did not stick. That’s when Bacanovic, Martha’s broker, became useful. By trying them together we could switch to conspiracy – to obstruct justice, make false statements and lie. Man, it couldn’t get any better than that.

Then my partner, Dave Kelly went public to announce that the Stewart case was “all about lying.” The media did a one-eighty without blinking, and we were pleased to see legal pundits everywhere on TV warning the public: “Never lie to the feds.” Thankfully that tool was reserved for our use.Now let me tell you about the tool we used to bring Bacanovic’s assistant, Douglas Faneuil, to heel. Faneuil first told us that his boss and Martha did nothing wrong, and that they had a stop-loss order to sell ImClone. Doug wasn’t singing the right tune for me. So, I said to him: “Listen, kid, how would you like to spend a couple of years in jail for conspiracy?” His singing improved dramatically.

In all the years pursuing Martha I had only one bad moment. Judge John Sprizzo called our case against Martha “weak” and he actually wondered why we were conducting our investigations so publicly. Talk about na├»ve. Fortunately, by the time we were ready to go to trial, her Honor, Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum replaced Sprizzo. What a help she was. She kept talking about “the seriousness “of Martha’s crimes.

First, however, we had a jury to pick, and we blew the defense away on that one. We got all our guys in, specially the perjurer Chappelle Hartridge He was the cowboy who could keep the herd from straying. Luckily, we had a bunch of civic-minded jurors; they hated Martha right from the beginning.

Just before the trial I bowed out. I’m going to let you in on a secret: I wasn’t so sure I could win, and I knew losing wouldn’t look so hot on my resume. Karen Patton Seymour was a perfect replacement. Man, she was one cool kid; a hot looking number, too. Thanks to Karen, Judge Cedarbaum made sure the jurors didn’t know that our case against Martha was really a creation of my – I mean our - zealous, inventive, prosecutorial minds.

So, in closing, my friends, may I paraphrase the late, great Barry Goldwater? “Extremism in the pursuit of Martha Stewart was no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of Justice would not have gotten me my promotion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This prosecutor is so full of himself.. Martha Stewart did something that white collar guys on wall street have been doing for years, he found a way to make a name for himself, had a lucky break and brags of taking her down. Funny, she is more successful than ever before so thank you, dirt bag prosecutor. Now I can buy her comforters at Macys!