DOCUMENT: Celebrity

When Martha Screamed About "Illegal Aliens"

Post-Timberlake, an East Hampton flashback

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Martha Unleashed

JUNE 19--Justin Timberlake’s arrest yesterday got us to thinking about our favorite incident involving a celebrity and cops in the Hamptons.

It was not when Billy Joel slammed his Mercedes-Benz into a tree on Route 114 in Sag Harbor (the Long Island village where Timberlake got collared). Joel told cops he had a glass of champagne before “drifting off the roadway” and encountering nature head-on. Prior to the 2003 crash, the singer had been dining at the American Hotel (where Timberlake was imbibing before his DWI bust).

No, our favorite East End memory involves Martha Stewart and her 1997 run-in with gardeners working on a property next to her modernist mansion on Georgica Pond in East Hampton (seen at right).

Stewart, who had been feuding with her next-door neighbor, developer Harry Macklowe, arrived home one evening to find a crew from Whitmore-Worsley Landscaping on the adjacent property. The employee in charge was foreman Matthew Munnich, a 23-year-old with degrees in Plant Science and Ornamental Horticulture.

Believing that the landscapers had installed a fence that encroached on her land, Stewart drove her SUV into Macklowe’s driveway and confronted Munnich. After being told the workers had not constructed a fence, Stewart “started to get extremely angry and she called me a ‘Fucking liar,’” according to a sworn statement Munnich gave police.

After again being told the workers were not responsible for the fence, Stewart exploded, yelling, “All you Whitmore guys are fucking liars, you’re all no good, the bunch of you.”

Stewart, Munnich recalled, “was just screaming at me and yelling that, “You and all your fucking illegal aliens are no good.” Stewart, who may have been the original Karen, then threatened to call the police.

Faced with Stewart’s invective, Munnich replied that it was “not really necessary to be talking like this and don’t talk about my guys like that.” When Stewart picked up her car phone--this was May 1997, mind you--Munnich “realized that this person was Martha Stewart...I recognized her from TV.”

While still yelling, Stewart backed out of the driveway and, Munnich claimed, pinned him between her car and a “security entrance keypad” that stuck out from a concrete pad on the ground. “You’re fucking crushing me, stop the car, let me out,” yelled Munnich, who claimed that Stewart “looked right at me” and kept backing up.

“As the car was crushing me more into the security device, the mirror collapsed forward and I was able to go into the bushes and avoid getting hit by the front of her car,” added Munnich.

The Suffolk County District Attorney subsequently declined to file a criminal charge against Stewart, who they said “initiated” the confrontation “in the mistaken belief” that the landscapers had erected a property line fence. “Although the possibility of injury was present,” prosecutors noted, “such injury thankfully was averted and Mr. Munnich was not seriously hurt.”

D.A. James Catterson concluded, “The objectionable as it may appear, does not warrant arrest and criminal prosecution.” This decision did not sit well with East Hampton cops, who believed there was probable cause to charge Stewart with reckless endangerment and attempted assault.

The law, however, caught up with Stewart six years later. (2 pages)