The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, January 30, 2004  

Heidi Fleiss on Martha Stewart

Most everyone missed it, but this week we had another of the countless truly surreal moments in American journalism, this one stemming from coverage of the federal prosecution of Martha Stewart.

In The Wall Street Journal, of all places, we read:

“Toads come out of her mouth -- the jury won’t like her,” contends Heidi Fleiss, the “Hollywood Madam” who was convicted in 1995 on federal charges of money-laundering and tax evasion in Los Angeles in connection with the high-priced call-girl ring she once ran. Ms. Fleiss, now a 38-year-old owner of a lingerie store called “Hollywood Madam,” spent 21 months in prison -- and believes she would have been acquitted had her lawyers allowed her to testify.

Ms. Fleiss says her lawyers told her to keep mum, a decision she regrets because jurors were left with only the portraits of her painted by prosecutors and their witnesses, including actor Charlie Sheen, who paid her large sums for sex with women Ms. Fleiss procured. “They made me look like the Anti-Christ,” she says now. Ms. Fleiss believes her own testimony would have put her in a more sympathetic light because “jurors would have gotten where I was coming from and maybe even liked me.”

Actually, in context with the rest of the article, “Putting Martha On the Stand,” by Laurie P. Cohen (WSJ, January 29), it does fit, in its own bizarre way, as the subject under discussion is whether celebrity defendants should, must even, take the stand.

Still, this -- seeking commentary from Fleiss -- has to be the most humiliating moment Stewart has had to face in Karen Seymour’s rampant, flawed, poorly conceived, and run amok prosecution.

“Toads come out of her mouth”? And what about you, Heidi? Where are your warts?

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