Gary Susman
February 03, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Fair or not, Martha Stewart’s reputation for frosty behavior could turn out to be a good thing for her legal defense. On Monday, federal prosecutors seeking to imply that Stewart had been tipped off to the imminent decline of ImClone’s share price on the day of her controversial stock sale, questioned an ImClone staffer who said she fielded a phone call from Stewart that day seeking to talk to her pal, ImClone CEO Sam Waksal. ”She seemed very hurried and harsh and direct,” said the witness, Waksal assistant Emily Perret, according to Reuters. However, under cross-examination, Perret said that Stewart usually took that tone when she called.

Perret, who testified under a grant of immunity from prosecution, said she told Stewart that Waksal was unavailable, then took a message reading, ”Martha Stewart. Something is going on with ImClone and she wants to know what.” However, when the defense asked Perret how that conversation differed from other Stewart calls, she said: ”Most of the time it was that way.”

Perret’s remarks came one day before the scheduled testimony of the government’s star witness, Douglas Faneuil, the former assistant to Stewart broker Peter Bacanovic (who is also on trial for allegedly helping Stewart lie to investigators in the case). Faneuil was initially scheduled to testify last Thursday, but Judge Miriam Cedarbaum delayed his testimony after the defense claimed that prosecutors had waited until the last minute to release papers that questioned how well Faneuil remembered the events in question.

According to the New York Times, a prominent Stewart supporter at the courthouse in Lower Manhattan on Monday was Rosie O’Donnell, who said she plied one of the prosecuting attorneys with peanut M&Ms to get him to drop the case. She said she told the lawyer he would always be infamous as the prosecutor who tried to bring down Martha Stewart and said to him: ”You should have passed on this gig.”

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