If federal prosecutors hoped to chill all white collar criminals by sending Martha Stewart to jail, they failed. If they hoped to break the diva, they failed. All they did was create a more successful, richer and better Martha Stewart.
To start with you don't send any message by taking up prison space and running up taxpayer bills by warehousing someone like Stewart. First, let me welcome her back to the real world (if house arrest at a $16 million estate can be considered the real world). I was opposed to her being charged, opposed to her being found guilty, thought she was railroaded by Republican prosecutors because she donated to Democratic causes and thought the whole thing was ludicrous.
When your town policeman is worrying about who threw the Snicker bar wrapper on the ground while on that same street corner meth and coke dealing is going on, then you need to get your priorities right. When you get a conviction because an FBI agent lies on the stand, when you give immunity to other white collar criminals to testify against another, you are making a mockery of the system. When these federal prosecutors start enforcing real laws then maybe they can worry about people like Martha.
Federal officials let those convicted of the first World Trade Center bombing write out letters uncensored or unfettered that praised the second bombing, urged people to rise up against the devil, America, and generally urged more terrorism. Now this riles me up. This gets my blood pressure up. Take all the energy you spent sending Martha Stewart to prison and put some controls on real criminals like the cold-blooded killers and terrorists.
I know last year when Stewart faced the prospect of going to prison, she was scared and worried about the worst happening. Why do I say she is a better person? Because she faced the challenge and overcame it. She did more than overcome it. She made a mockery of the prison system. If she wanted to make something special in her West Virginia prison she gathered some contraband and made it in the microwave in her room. She advised and was liked by fellow prisoners and prison authorities just basically said, Let's get through this without anything happening to Stewart. But you can't be confined for any period without being changed a little. The air of freedom will smell fresher, the food of freedom with taste sweeter and better. At this stage in her life it was like taking a giant electrical jumper cable and jump starting her life. She has had some quiet time to reflect. She now remembers how nice the better things are in life.
From the personal enhancement side, she will write a book, she will host a reality television show, she was rekindle her empire.
So in every way Stewart beat the system, even more so than if she had O.J.ed her charges and wiggled out of them.
So the system failed and Martha Stewart won.
If the system had been less greedy it would have sentenced her to some meaningful community service and we could have seen her paying for her sins. It did not.
I make no apology for liking Martha Stewart and those of you who don't can't convince me to change my opinion. Keep your opinion and I will keep mine.
Do I think Stewart is going to have a St. Francis of Assisi change? Will she come out and start wearing simple cloth clothes and spend the day working with God's little creatures like unwanted strays and working in soup kitchens and turn her back on America's lavish living style? No, she will not.
Will she spend tireless hours laboring to make the prison system better and more productive? No she will not.
She will take her rekindled career and soar back to the top thanks to the million dollar public relations boost she has been given by the federal government. I am sure some of the vindictive Republican federal prosecutors who pursued her hoped she would come out a broken woman, maybe shanked in prison, that she would die in a gutter with a needle in her arm. They hoped this as much as they hoped that they could find the smoking gun and hound Bill Clinton office and get him thrown from office. It must gall them to see former President Bush and Clinton raising money side by side to help people. It will also gall them to see Martha Stewart showing busy women how they can make a six course meal fit for a king in a prison microwave.
And whatever she does, this Martha Stewart fan will be there to cheer her on.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor for the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257.