Stewart will prevail

Martha Stewart’s spring garden may just happen after all. Tuesday, a federal judge ordered the domestic queen to turn herself in by Oct. 8 to begin serving a five-month sentence for lying about a stock sale.

On Stewart’s list of prisons to do her time at: a facility in Danbury, Conn., near her home, and one 70 miles north of Tampa in Coleman, where former USF Professor Sami Al-Arian is being held on terrorist charges.

On July 16, during a “shameful day” in Stewart’s life, she stood on the steps of a courthouse in New York City after being sentenced and declared more dramatically than the Terminator ever could, “I will be back.”

Before the ImClone scandal in 2001 that led to Stewart’s conviction in March of this year, I knew little about the celebrity homemaker aside from the Saturday Night Live skits mocking her empire. But watching her resilience in dealing with the stress of the trial revealed a side of Stewart I thought I didn’t care to know. I watched Stewart attend parties and continue her dinner dates, because as she put it, she still had to eat.

She stood strong in the face of critics who made her days even more unbearable by complaining about what she wore to court, such as the handbag that cost thousands of dollars and the furs wrapped around her neck. Stewart later said in an exclusive interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters just hours after being sentenced that the purse was a gift to herself years ago and it cost nowhere near what spectators said. As for the fur, Stewart said it was fake. Her daughter, she said, would never allow her to wear real fur.

While hundreds of Americans tuned into Walters’ special — the only interview Stewart gave the day she was sentenced — I sat as an intern at ABC News headquarters in New York and watched the interview take place in real time from a nearby edit room.

I remember waiting anxiously near the elevators as Stewart and her entourage of lawyers made their way into the building. When the 63-year-old woman stepped off the elevator, she did so with the same grace and style she’s worn since seeing everything she’s worked for got pulled from underneath her. Not once during the entire time did I see a look of despair on Stewart’s face.

Some may argue that perhaps she has no remorse, or maybe she’s lucky that her conviction wasn’t worse or her punishment more severe. After serving five months in prison, Stewart must serve five months house arrest.

I too laughed when Stewart stood on the steps of the courthouse after a judge convicted her and Stewart asked the public to remain loyal supporters of her products.

“Perhaps all of you out there can continue to show your support by subscribing to our magazine, by buying our products, by encouraging our advertisers to come backing full force to our magazine,” Stewart said. “Our magazines are great. They deserve your support.”

Saturday Night Live couldn’t have written a better script. Neither could Martha Stewart. In that moment, during what had to be one of the weakest times in her life, she stood strong for a company she’s spent her life building.

During the Walters interview, Stewart said if it could happen to her, it could happen to anyone. It had to be a sobering thought.

Now as she looks forward to what the next five months of her life will hold, she’s already begun planning to rebuild Martha Stewart Living. It’s hard to imagine Stewart spending even a day in jail without being in touch with the people left behind running her company, if she can help it.

A reality show producer has expressed interest in helping Stewart revive her television show. Shares in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia have risen. And I have no doubt that like a phoenix, Martha Stewart the woman will rise again.

Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief.