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Stewart armed to fight battle of public opinion

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Martha Stewart thanked her admirers Monday for 40,000 e-mails of praise and support she says have flooded a Web site she set up to defend herself against stock fraud charges.

Image consultants say it's part of a shrewd campaign to win the battle for public opinion — and influence potential jurors who may one day decide her guilt or innocence.

"This is brilliant," said Seth Siegel, co-founder of The Beanstalk Group, a trademark licensing agency. "She is shoring up her base, and simultaneously getting ready for a trial."

The site, marthatalks.com, went up just hours after Stewart was indicted last week on five federal charges related to her sale of ImClone Systems shares just before the stock plummeted on bad news from regulators. She has pleaded innocent.