What did they have in common? 18 U.S.C. § 1001.
On the surface, all three of them were involved in very different criminal offenses. Martha Stewart's criminal involvement began with insider trading. Marion Jones used performance enhancing drugs. Ted Stevens accepted money and contributions and was convicted for not reporting them. However, all three ran afoul of the most basic crime in the federal criminal code: making a false statement. 18 U.S.C. § 1001 is the reason good criminal defense lawyers advise their clients to invoke 5th Amendment protections; even a mere, knee-jerk denial of wrongdoing can subject an innocent person to a federal prosecution. Although the title of the statute is innocuous, the full text of the federal statute is anything but:
Statements or entries generally
(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;
shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.
(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to a party to a judicial proceeding, or that party’s counsel, for statements, representations, writings or documents submitted by such party or counsel to a judge or magistrate in that proceeding.
(c) With respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the legislative branch, subsection (a) shall apply only to—
(1) administrative matters, including a claim for payment, a matter related to the procurement of property or services, personnel or employment practices, or support services, or a document required by law, rule, or regulation to be submitted to the Congress or any office or officer within the legislative branch; or
(2) any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or Senate.
There is also a state-law counterpart. While 18 U.S.C. § 1001. applies to federal investigations, the Texas Penal Code Section 37.08 applies to false statements made to a peace officer or law enforcement in a state criminal investigation. Because federal investigations and prosecutions are handled very differently than state prosecutions, the statute statute isn't used as often in state prosecutions when a person can be charged with a greater underlying offense. One reason is that the federal statute allows for up to 8 years imprisonment and the state counterpart only provides a punishment of up to 180 days in jail.
The full text of the Texas statute is as follows:
FALSE REPORT TO PEACE OFFICER OR LAW ENFORCEMENT EMPLOYEE
A person commits an offense if, with intent to deceive, he knowingly makes a false statement that is material to a criminal investigation and makes the statement to:
(1) a peace officer conducting the investigation; or
(2) any employee of a law enforcement agency that is authorized by the agency to conduct the investigation and that the actor knows is conducting the investigation.