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Grudge Alleged in Ink Expert's Perjury Case

September 24, 2004|From Associated Press

The perjury case against a Secret Service ink expert who testified against Martha Stewart amounts to a sex-tinged grudge held against the witness by a woman who worked for him, a defense lawyer said Thursday.

In opening statements in the trial of Larry Stewart, lawyer Judith Wheat said the woman, Susan Fortunato, was upset that prosecutors had chosen him, not her, to testify as an expert witness at the celebrity's trial.

"This case is a final chapter in what has been a three-year feud between Larry Stewart and Susan Fortunato," Wheat told jurors in federal court in Manhattan.

Larry Stewart, who is not related to Martha Stewart, is accused of exaggerating his role in ink testing of a stock worksheet that was a key piece of evidence in the trial of Martha Stewart and her former stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic.

Fortunato, her voice breaking, testified Thursday that she complained to her supervisors when Larry Stewart approached her after a meeting in 2001 and kissed her.

Bolstering the accusations of prosecutors, she also said Stewart did not help her in testing the stock worksheet in July 2002 and a second time in January 2004, just before the Martha Stewart trial opened.

Fortunato walked jurors through a complicated series of tests she said she performed on the document both times.

Bacanovic was acquitted of a charge of doctoring the stock worksheet. Still, prosecutor David Esseks told jurors Larry Stewart had broken his oath to tell the truth when he testified.

"He lied about himself," Esseks said. "He lied about what he did, and he lied about what he knew."

But the trial's first day centered on Stewart and Fortunato, who in May told federal prosecutors that she believed Stewart had lied during his testimony in the Martha Stewart trial.

Fortunato said she rebuffed Larry Stewart in the 1990s when he asked her to dance with him at a conference they attended, calling the suggestion "creepy" because he was her boss. After he kissed her in 2001, she said, she felt afraid.

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