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How Bad Was Stewart's Lie?

March 13, 2004

Re "When Silence Isn't Golden," by Jonathan Turley, Commentary, March 9: What is overlooked in the Martha Stewart hoopla is that she was indicted and convicted for lying to a federal officer, even though she was not under oath; she was in a voluntary meeting; she was not being recorded (she was convicted based on written notes); she was being investigated for a civil matter and thus had no obvious 5th Amendment protections; and the action that started the investigation was not criminal.

The frightening thing is that we are compelled to always tell the truth to investigators, who are not compelled to tell us the truth (investigators can, and do, lie to suspects in order to legally coerce testimony). In a perfect world, where federal investigators are neutral agents concerned only with the truth, that is probably all right. We do not live in a perfect world. Agents are responsive to both bureaucratic and political pressure, and embarrassing or compromising information does get leaked or (as in Stewart's case) applied to other charges. The safest course, then, is to never talk to investigators, under any circumstances, by invoking one's right against self-incrimination. Stewart's problem wasn't that she remained silent in the courtroom. It was that she spoke at all.

Peter Meulbroek

Pasadena

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I'm astonished at the number of people who think that it wasn't a big deal that Martha lied to federal investigators and tried to cover up what she knew had been unlawful behavior. As a former stockbroker, she knew the laws governing her actions. She stole from each of us who must trade based on public information, whereas she profited from operating in an "in-group."

I'm a high school mathematics teacher, struggling to convince young people that rigorous honesty is the only way to proceed in life. Truth and honesty are not on a continuum with lying and cheating at the other end. A student who gives his paper to another to copy is as wrong as the one who copies it.

Martha was dishonest and found guilty. Stop excusing it.

Judy Shellenberger

Torrance

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As a public relations guy retired after 25 years in the business, my advice to Stewart a year ago would have been simple: Fire your lawyers, say you're sorry, pay the $50,000 back, plus a nominal fine, and move on. The result? The story would have lasted three days. Your reputation would not be in tatters and your Martha Stewart Living stock would be worth about $50 a share today. I don't feel sorry for her.

Rick Doyon

Fullerton

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I am often very critical of Michael Ramirez's political cartoons, but on March 9 he hit the mark (Commentary). His huge, sinister, impervious shark lolling unperturbed above the small, somewhat dainty, hooked fish representing Stewart not only puts her relatively minor crime in perspective but also reminds us who the real predators are: those corporate executives who enrich themselves at the expense of workers, investors and the nation's economy. They are the ones who need to be put in the slammer.

Gary Nagy

Gardena

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Stewart, with her $200,000 stock transaction, is vigorously pursued by prosecutors. "Kenny Boy" Lay, whose Enron debacle cost investors millions, has yet to be charged. What's wrong with this picture?

Linda L. Bailey

Mission Hills

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