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July 2010, Week 4

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Sat, 24 Jul 2010 23:58:07 -0400
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The Sentencing of Lynne Stewart
By Michael Steven Smith
submitted to portside by the author [a shortened version
of this appears in the New York Indypendent]
July 24, 2010

        "At all times throughout history the ideology of
	the ruling class is the ruling ideology." Karl
	Marx

Lynne Stewart is a friend. She used to practice law in
New York City. I still do. I was in the courtroom with
my wife Debby the afternoon of July l9th for her re-
sentencing. The Judge John Koetl buried her alive. We
should have seen it coming when he told her to take all
the time she needed at the start when she spoke before
the sentence was read. It didn't matter what she said.
He had already written his decision, which he read out
loud for to a courtroom packed with supporters. It was
well crafted. Bullet proof on appeal. He is smart and
cautious. After about an hour into his pronouncement he
came to the buried alive part. He prefaced it byciting
the unprecedented 400 letters of support people had sent
him, all of which he said he read. He noted Lynne's
three decades of service to the poor and the outcast. He
stressed that she is a seventy year old breast
cancersurvivor with high blood pressure and other
serious health problems. And then he laid it on her: l20
months.

 Everyone in the courthouse divided l20 by l2. He had
 given her a death sentence we all thought. She'll never
 get out. He almost quadrupled the 28 month sentence he
 had originally pronounced. She had told him that 28
 months was a horizon, that she had hope. But no more.
 Lynne's granddaughter gasped. Then started sobbing. She
 kept crying even as Judge John Koetl kept reading. And
 reading. And reading. It was awful. The sentence was
 pitiless and cruel. How to understand it?

Lynne's lawyer Jill Shellow Levine rose after the Judge
finished. She asked him why. He was candid. He was told
to do it by his supervisors, the judges on the Court of
Appeals for the Second Circuit. This court is an
institution of the elite. It is considered the second
highest court in America next to the Supreme Court
because it presides over the financial center of the
empire, not its capital, that is in D.C., but its real
capital. This court makes policy and Lynne Stewart was
to be made an example of in "the war against terrorism"
just as a half a century before, in the same court,
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were condemned to death in
the war against communism, told that they had caused the
deaths of 50,000 U.S. soldiers in the Korean War, and
found guilty of the ridiculous charge of "stealing the
secret" of the atomic bomb, when there was no secret, it
was only a matter of technology.  The sentencing Judge
Kaufman knew they would leave behind two orphan
children, Robert and Michael, ages six and three.

In l947 George Kennan, the ideological father of the
cold war, wrote that the United States had but six per
cent of the world's population and fifty per cent of its
wealth. The problem was to keep it. Anti-communism
served as the ideological cover the U.S. ruling classes
used. But communism ceased to exist after capitalism was
restored in the Soviet Union in l99l. A new ideological
cover has been constructed in the wake of the September
llth criminal attack on the World Tread Center and the
Pentagon: The War Against Terror. Nationalist opposition
to U.S. economic and foreign policy in parts of the Arab
world is no longer led by communists but by
fundamentalist Muslims.

Lynne Stewart represented one of them, Sheik Abdel
Rahman, who was the leading oppositionist to the U.S.
sponsored Murabak dictatorship in Egypt, which gets more
money from America than any other country in the world
except Israel. In l993, at the behest of the Egyptian
government, Sheik Rahman was criminally indicted and
later convicted of the crime of "sedition" for
suggesting to government informer that rather than blow
up New York City landmarks he choose "a military
target." It was on the occasion of a post- conviction
prison visit that Lynne helped her client. She released
his statement to Reuters press service announcing his
withdrawal of support for a cease fire between his group
and the Egyptian government. This was in violation of a
Special Administrative Measure (SAMs) that Lynne had
agreed to with the U.S. Government. She wasn't supposed
to be a medium for commincation between her client and
the outside world.  She should have challenged the
constitutionality of the SAMs, she now realizes, and not
just have violated them.

She wasn't prosecuted for what she did, not under the
Clinton administration, nor during the first years of
George W. Bush. Then came 9.ll. Bush's Attorney General
John Ashcroft flew into New York City in 2003 and
announced Lynne's indictment on the David Letterman
show. The crime? A novel one. Conspiracy to provide
material aid to a terrorist organization. What was the
material aid? Her client. When Ashcroft did that, as the
nation's highest law enforcement officer, he committed
an ethical violation for which any other attorney would
have been sanctioned. He made sure that from the very
beginning of her ordeal Lynne Stewart never had a
chance.  Not with the level of fear the government was
able to generate and the scare they put into her jury.
In 2006 she was convicted and sentenced. The maximum was
30 years, but thanks to the superb legal work of
National Lawyers Guild attorneys Elizabeth Fink and
Sarah Kunstler and the outpouring of public support
Judge Koetl gave her 28 months. The government appealed
the sentence to their U.S. Court of Appeals. Game over.
The selective prosecution of Lynne Stewart was
accomplished.

Judge John Walker, George W. Bush's first cousin, sits
on that court. His family made their fortune selling
munitions during WWI. He wrote that the 28 months was
"shockingly low."  Judge Koetl was given his orders. The
seemingly kindly boyish looking jurist about whom it was
said that he walks to work and looks after an elderly
mother - not exactly a sadistic old lady killer - then
reversed himself and on the same evidence nearly
quadruped the sentence, putting a seventy year old
grandmother on chemotherapy away for ten years and two
years probation after that for good measure. This is
much more than meanness. It is ideology.

[Michael Steven Smith is the co-host of the WBAI radio
show Law and Disorder and sits on the Board of The
Center for Constitutional Rights.]

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