[Ppnews] Lynne Stewart gets 28 month sentence
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 16 17:44:39 EDT 2006
Article published Oct 16, 2006
Civil Rights Lawyer Sentenced to Prison
BY LARRY NEUMEISTER
Associated Press Writer
Former civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart speaks at a rally in front
of Manhattan federal court before her scheduled sentencing, Monday,
Oct. 16, 2006, in New York. Stewart faces up to 30 years in prison
after being found guilty of giving material support to terrorists by
helping her then client convicted terrorist Sheik Ahmed Abdel Rahman
pass information to his followers. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)
A firebrand civil rights lawyer who has defended Black Panthers and
anti-war radicals was sentenced Monday to nearly 2 1/2 years in
prison - far less than the 30 years prosecutors wanted - for helping
an imprisoned terrorist sheik communicate with his followers on the outside.
Lynne Stewart, 67, smiled, cried and hugged supporters after U.S.
District Judge John G. Koeltl pronounced the sentence of 28 months.
The judge said Stewart was guilty of smuggling messages between her
client and his followers that could have "potentially lethal
consequences." He called the crimes "extraordinarily severe criminal conduct."
But in departing from federal guidelines that called for 30 years
behind bars, he cited Stewart's more than three decades of dedication
to poor, disadvantaged and unpopular clients.
"Ms. Stewart performed a public service, not only to her clients, but
to the nation," Koeltl said.
The judge said Stewart could remain free while she appeals, a process
that could take more than a year.
Stewart was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and her lawyer
Elizabeth Fink had warned in a plea to the judge: "If you send her to
prison, she's going to die. It's as simple as that."
Outside court, Stewart said she thought the sentence was "a victory
for doing good work all one's life." She added: "You get time off for
good behavior usually at the end of your prison term. I got it at the
U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia had no immediate comment.
Stewart has represented Black Panthers, leaders of the 1960s student
activist group Weather Underground, a former mob hit man and a man
accused of trying to kill nine police officers.
Stewart was convicted in 2005 of providing material support to
terrorists. She had released a statement issued by one of her
clients, Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind sheik sentenced to life in prison
for plotting to blow up five New York landmarks and assassinate
Prosecutors have called the case a major victory in the war on
terrorism. They said Stewart and other defendants carried messages
between the sheik and top members of an Egypt-based terrorist
organization, helping spread Abdel-Rahman's call to kill those who
did not subscribe to his extremist interpretation of Islamic law.
Stewart was arrested six months after the Sept. 11 attacks, along
with Mohamed Yousry, an Arabic interpreter, and Ahmed Abdel Sattar, a
U.S. postal worker.
Yousry was sentenced to one year and eight months behind bars, while
Sattar received 24 years in prison Monday.
Convicted of conspiracy to kill and kidnap people in a foreign
country, Sattar could have gotten a life sentence. But the judge said
no one was killed or injured, and he cited Sattar's lack of previous
crimes and his restrictive prison conditions.
In a letter to the judge, Stewart proclaimed: "I am not a traitor."
She said she did not intentionally enter into any conspiracy to help
a terrorist organization.
"The end of my career truly is like a sword in my side," Stewart said
at her sentencing. "Permit me to live out the rest of my life
productively, lovingly, righteously."
In court papers, prosecutors said Stewart's "egregious, flagrant
abuse of her profession, abuse that amounted to material support to a
terrorist group, deserves to be severely punished."
Earlier, about 150 Stewart supporters who could not get inside the
filled-to-capacity courtroom stood outside the courthouse, chanting
"Free Lynne, Free Lynne."
"It's not just Lynne Stewart who is a victim; it's the Bill of Rights
that's the victim," said Al Dorfman, 72, a retired lawyer.
About 200 more supporters jammed the halls outside the courtroom.
Associated Press writer Pat Milton and AP Radio correspondent Warren
Levinson contributed to this report.
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