Because It's Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart may be a big name, but in terms of wrongdoing, she's not a big fish.
The judge threw out the most serious charge against her - securities fraud. And prosecutors didn't have evidence of insider trading, so they never brought up that charge. Her savings on the ImClone shares, sold the day before an announcement that sent the stock tumbling, were relatively minor: about $45,000 (for a woman who was worth about $650 million).
And yet it is precisely because of her star status that her conviction of obstruction and lying to federal investigators is significant. As one juror, Chappell Hartridge, put it, the message is "no one's above the law." Perhaps the verdict, he added, "might give the average guy a little more confident feeling that [he] can invest in the market and everything will be on the up-and-up."
The economy suffers when consumer confidence crumbles. Buyers and investors hold back dollars. Government regulators add more regulations to restore confidence.
The jury was right to disregard the standing of Ms. Stewart as America's best-known hostess and stick to the facts of the case. But when it comes to the effect of their verdict, celebrity matters. It shows the general public - and those practicing loose ethics on Wall Street - that even the wealthy and famous are subject to the law. With that, one more plank in the platform of trust is nailed back in place.