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Full-Court Press

Martha reporters bond over chicken salad—and dish about the outcome of the trial.

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“Oh, god, I can’t believe I’ve been here a month!” moans the Post’s Andrea Peyser, an anti-Martha fixture in row two at the Martha Stewart trial. If the audience at 40 Centre Street has at times seemed more like one from the U.S. Open—Bill Cosby, Rosie O’Donnell, Barbara Walters, Tina Brown—many of the reporters seem to have bonded Band of Brothers–style, rendered senseless by the trial’s financial jargon and the “expertise” regarding the ink used in Peter Bacanovic’s memos. “It’s different when it’s murder and rape,” muses Dominick Dunne, wistful for the days of O.J. and Michael Skakel. “It’s more fun when it’s murder and rape.”

Most days, Dunne leads the charge up to the fifth-floor cafeteria with his O.J.-army buddy Jeffrey Toobin, Peyser, and ABC News’s Betsy Stark to do triage from that morning’s battle—sorting out what happened and what it all means. The pecking order is clear. “Dominick is the sun, and we are all mere planets around him,” says Toobin, of the New Yorker. Henry Blodget, the disgraced former securities analyst covering the trial for Slate, has also worked his way into the crew; his fluency in Wall Street–speak makes him indispensable. “Henry is the secretary of the Treasury, and I suppose I’m the attorney general,” says Toobin. “But Dominick is certainly the president.”

Dunne confesses to being addicted to the “lunch bunch,” as he calls it, though he’s occasionally summoned to the fourth floor for an exclusive repast with Martha herself. Dunne is coy about what it’s like to eat with Stewart, but while the access is five-star, the food is not. “It’s not haute cuisine,” says the author Christopher Mason, who, as a friend of Bacanovic’s, is also a fourth-floor lunch regular. “It’s chicken salad. We’re trying to cheer them up. You try to talk about everything except.”

Afterward, it’s back down to the first-floor courtroom, where Dunne usually plants himself in the third row, next to NBC’s Anne Thompson. Toobin sits behind Dunne (or to his right if he lumbers in early enough), and the daily reporters, including Peyser, squeeze in front, inches from Martha but behind a lectern that blocks Peyser’s view of the witnesses. “Andrea’s a row ahead of me, but that’s not better,” says Dunne. “But she’s fun to lean forward and chat with. She’s hilarious.”

Now, with just a few days left before disbanding—no more lining up at 8:15 a.m.—everyone’s buzzing about the judge dropping the securities-fraud charge. “I think it’s great,” says Dunne. “I’m pro-Martha. I’ve been a pro- prosecution guy my whole life, but not here.” Both he and Blodget suspect Bacanovic will be hung out to dry, while Martha will squeak by. “He’s a nice guy,” Dunne says of Martha’s broker. “He’s just out of his element.”

Blodget lets out a raucous laugh. “Who’s in their element here? John Gotti?”


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