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Footloose Martha Stewart

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Martha Stewart high-tailed it out of Westchester County yesterday to spend her first full day of freedom.

The domestic diva's roughly five-month term of home confinement ended with little fanfare at 12:01 a.m., when she snipped off her electronic ankle bracelet, watched some television and turned in at about 12:30 a.m.

She started the day in earnest at about 8 a.m., when the homemaking maven left her posh Bedford estate in a small caravan of SUVs.

With a mug of coffee in her hand and look on her face that did not display as much happiness as one would expect from a newly liberated prisoner, Stewart climbed into one of the vehicles with her daughter, Alexis, a male friend of her daughter's and another woman.

She wore an all-black ensemble and pearl earrings as she and her entourage hustled through the gates of her estate.

The vehicles drove to the Westchester County Airport and left on a private flight. It was not clear where she went, but sources said she may have gone to Maine, where she has a large estate in a tony section of the bucolic Mount Desert Island.

Yesterday was the first day of the rest of the arts-and-crafts empress' life after she was convicted last year of lying to federal authorities about a stock trade and suffered the ignominy of being sent to jail for five months.

She was to be held under house arrest until Aug. 10 but had three extra weeks tacked on to her time after The Post exposed some apparent violations of her probation - including a trip to a yoga class.

During her house arrest, her moves were monitored by an electronic anklet. Authorities said she was allowed to cut it off at 12:01 yesterday morning, though Stewart said she would wait until 12:05 a.m. to actually do it.

The bracelet will eventually be returned to federal authorities, who may eventually re-issue it to another convict.

On Wednesday, Stewart issued a statement saying her first day of freedom was something that she was looking forward to with "nervous excitement" - and she said she considered her time under house arrest "hideous."

September is set to be a big month for the billionaire baroness of high living, as she rolls out a new daytime talk and decorating-advice show, to be called "Martha," and a version of "The Apprentice" that will be the sister show to Donald Trump's original.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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