Los Angeles Times

Check-in day for Martha

Staff Writer

It's check-in day for Martha Stewart.

Stewart, 63, who rose from working-class roots in Nutley, N.J., to be named one of the country's 50 Most Powerful Women by Fortune magazine in 1998, is expected to show up at the 105-acre, 1,040-inmate Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia by 2 p.m. Friday.

She will begin serving a 5-month sentence for lying to federal investigators about her suspiciously timed stock sale.

Stewart, founder of a multimillion-dollar publishing and home-decorating empire, spent Thurday with her mother, Martha Kostyra, 90; daughter, Alexis, and sisters.

"She's in very good spirits," said a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Stewart was an apparent no-show Thursday night for the wedding reception for Susan Magrino, her long time friend and publicist, at the Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan.

Guests said she didn't attend.

"Send her my love," writer Dominick Dunne said. "I think the punishment exceeded the crime here, and I will be praying for her."

The source said Stewart has no fears about her safety at the Alderson camp, the first federal prison for women in the country and nicknamed Camp Cupcake because of its bakery.

"Alderson has a history of treating prisoners well," the source said. "I think she is mentally prepared. She's anxious to really begin the closure. It was her decision to begin serving her term and hers alone."

Despite the prison's remote location -- nestled in the valley of the Keeney, Muddy and Wolf creeks and the Flattop Appalachian Mountains -- hordes of reporters and photographers have camped outside its stone and iron gates in hopes of recording Stewart's grand entry.

Her anticipated arrival has also attracted some tourists. Karen and Bill Bright of Buckhannon, W. Va., with cameras in hand, said they detoured 11 miles to take in the show.

"We just wanted to see all the hoopla," said Bill Bright, 64.

Stewart will be issued four khaki work shirts, four khaki pants, two T-shirts, seven pairs of underwear, one pair of work shoes, one nightshirt, six pairs of socks and a coat.

Concerned about Stewart's confinement, the Save Martha Web site has asked readers to send letters to Alderson's warden asking that Stewart be allowed to "share her talents with other inmates so that something good can come out of this unfortunate situation."

It also suggested that readers send care packages of craft items, snacks and board games "that could help her pass the time."

In the meantime, Stewart's appeal attorneys accused government prosecutors yesterday of withholding evidence that could have led to an acquittal.

In a letter to federal prosecutors, the lawyers alleged that documents and testimony of ink expert, Larry Stewart, showed the government lab had "sabotaged" testing of a key piece of evidence.

Staff writer Robert Kahn contributed to this story.

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