Martha Dishes Up Community Service Idea

06/01/2004 at 08:00 AM EDT

Martha Dishes Up Community Service Idea
Martha Stewart
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/GETTY/Newscom
Martha Stewart, who's due to be sentenced June 17 after being convicted last March for lying to federal investigators probing a questionable stock sale, will seek to lighten her jail term by teaching poor women how to start their own businesses, according to reports.

Stewart, 62, approached a New York City nonprofit group, the Women's Venture Fund, with her proposal that she spend up to 20 hours a week, up to 1,000 hours in all, with the group, WVF president Maria Otero tells Newsweek.

After meeting privately with Stewart, Otero wrote a three-page letter to U.S. Judge Miriam Cedarbaum about how the domestic diva's expertise could benefit underprivileged women, says the magazine.

Stewart reportedly is hoping that such service might replace some of all of her anticipated jail sentence, which legal experts have predicted could be between 10 and 16 months.

"Can you imagine if we had graduates of the Martha Stewart cleaning program bidding for contracts cleaning Hilton Hotels?" Otero tells Newsweek, which reports that Stewart phoned Otero last month to set up a meeting.

When Stewart arrived at WVF's offices, she was reportedly accompanied by newly hired "sentencing consultant," Herb Hoelter, known as the get-out-of-jail guy to the stars.

For 90 minutes, Stewart pitched herself as a teacher of classes on how to start and run a business, as well as a mentor to a handful of women one-on-one. "She had a need to sell herself," Otero says.

Robert Morvillo, a lawyer for Stewart, would not confirm the report. "Community service is a form of alternative sentencing. But we're not going to comment beyond that," he told New York's Daily News.

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