ALDERSON, W.Va. — Martha Stewart reported to prison before sunrise Friday to begin serving a five-month sentence for lying about a stock sale, slipping all but unnoticed past waiting supporters and reporters.
The celebrity homemaker said on her Web site she was looking forward to returning to work in March and enjoying "many brighter days ahead."
Stewart, 63, was convicted last March of lying to investigators about why she sold stock in a biotech drug maker in December 2001, just before its price plunged. She was allowed to remain free pending appeal but asked to begin serving her time anyway, saying she wanted to reclaim her life.
"While I am away, my updates here will be less frequent, if not altogether impossible," Stewart said in a letter posted on her Web site. "But please know this change is only an unfortunate reflection of my current circumstances, and in no way diminishes my commitment to my life's work or to the friends, colleagues, customers and supporters who make it possible.
"With your good wishes in my heart, I am looking forward to being back at work in March, and to many brighter days ahead."
Stewart has said she will miss her pets during her stay in prison but hoped to be free in time for spring gardening.
Inmates who are sentenced to a year or less are not eligible for early release because of good behavior. Following her prison term, Stewart must serve five months of home confinement.
The promise of her arrival in Alderson lured five students to skip morning classes at the Beckley Beauty Academy. Stewart was already inside the prison when the students arrived, clad in beautician smocks, but they said they planned to return when she is released.
"I think she rocks. If she needs her hair done while she's here, she should call," Leighann Alderman said.
While in prison, Stewart will forgo five months of her $900,000 yearly base pay from her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. An employment contract approved Sept. 17 says the company will resume paying her when she leaves prison and is on home confinement.
Behind bars, Stewart will be eligible for jobs that pay 12 cents to 40 cents an hour.
Famous inmates are nothing new to the town of Alderson, about 270 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. The prison, which opened in 1927, has hosted Billie Holiday, Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally and would-be presidential assassins Squeaky Fromme and Sara Jane Moore.
Stewart was convicted in her sale of 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems on Dec. 27, 2001 — the day before the government issued a disappointing report on an ImClone drug, sending the company's stock price tumbling.
Her former stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic, was also convicted of lying to investigators and received the same sentence. He remains free during his appeal and has announced no plans to enter prison.