The Crushed-Velvet Curtain
Finally, the feds encouraged the media to believe that the probe into Martha Stewart offered a rare opportunity to give the public a glimpse into the secretive, mysterious world of the upper crust of New York society and to demonstrate that the wealthy played by a different set of financial rules from all others. As Newsweek put it in its July 1, 2002 story on the Stewart case: "...l’affaire Martha isn’t just about ImClone. It has also pulled back the crushed-velvet curtain on the clubby world of New York’s social elite, a place where the rich and powerful pass around insider business gossip as readily as the help passes out smoked-salmon canapés. With post-Enron investors already questioning the fairness of the marketplace, Stewart’s case is the most visible reminder yet that folks on the inside get richer while the rest of us watch our 401(k)s shrivel."
But the feds did not have to work too hard to convince the media and the public that the Martha Stewart legal case was one of the most gripping of the era.
It was compelling because the full weight of the Federal Government was taking on one of the nation’s most celebrated icons—and all over a minor offense.
It was dramatic because here was someone who had it all yet let it slip away—again over a minor indiscretion.
Finally, it was attention-getting because the main actor in the drama had the ability to put an end to her struggle but chose instead to fight on against heavy odds.
How could such a thing happen?
What was it that impelled Martha Stewart to an indictment and trial, both of which were avoidable?
Once it happened, was her downfall inevitable?
What motivated the federal authorities to pursue her so relentlessly?
How did she stage the most remarkable comeback in modern history?
These are the questions that we take up in this book.
Our story begins in the winter of 2001 when all seemed tranquil and idyllic for Martha Stewart—and her life was about to unravel.