Martha Mess Goes to the Justice Dept.

09/10/2002 01:00PM

Lawmakers investigating Martha Stewart in a probe of whether or not she had inside information when she sold ImClone stock last December -- a day before the firm disclosed news that would sent its stock price plummeting -- announced Tuesday that they're handing the case over to the U.S. Justice Department.

Speaking at a Washington news conference carried by CNN (which, like PEOPLE, is part of AOL Time Warner), members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including top Republican Reps. Billy Tauzin and James Greenwood, said that they would send a bipartisan letter to the Justice Department urging it to look into the matter.

Stewart's attorneys have provided e-mail, telephone and other records to the committee, which Tauzin chairs, but she has refused to meet with congressional staff to answer questions, Tauzin spokesman Ken Johnson told Reuters.

"If she had simply met with our investigators and answered all of their questions fully and truthfully, this would have been over the next day," Johnson said.

On Tuesday's "Today" show, Michigan Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak said: "Against my recommendation, I think the committee is going punt this whole matter over to the Justice Department and let the Justice Department finish up the investigation."

Stewart, 61, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. The domestic diva said she sold the shares because she and her broker had a previous agreement to unload them if the price fell below $60 a share.

Stewart's attorney, Robert Morvillo, told New York's Daily News that he disagreed with the committee's harsh analysis of his client, but, he said he is "confidant that the investigation (by the Justice Department) will lead to Ms. Stewart's exoneration."

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