Sentencing of Civil Rights Attorney Lynne Stewart
1. Democracy Now
2. Elaine Brower, War Is A Crime .org
Civil Rights Attorney Lynne Stewart Resentenced to
10-Year Term--Nearly Five Times Her Original Sentence
[The civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart's sentence was
increased Thursday after an appeals court ruled that
two years and four months of prison time was too light.
Stewart was found guilty in 2005 of distributing press
releases on behalf of her jailed client Sheikh Omar
Abdel-Rahman, also known as the "Blind Sheikh." We play
excerpts of Lynne Stewart's last broadcast interview
before she was jailed in November and speak to
independent journalist Petra Bartosiewicz. [includes
AMY GOODMAN: Civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart has
been ordered to prison to begin serving a
two-and-a-half-year sentence after a federal appeals
court upheld her conviction on Tuesday.
Lynne Stewart was found guilty in 2005 of distributing
press releases on behalf of her jailed client, Sheikh
Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the "Blind Sheikh,"
who's serving a life sentence on terror-related
charges. Prosecutors had sought a thirty-year sentence,
but Stewart was sentenced to two-and-a-half years after
the judge rejected the prosecutors' argument that she
threatened national security and ruled there was no
evidence her actions caused any harm.
On Tuesday, a three-judge appeals court panel ordered
the trial judge to revoke Stewart's bond and said she
must begin serving her twenty-eight-month sentence. The
panel rejected Stewart's claim she was acting only as a
"zealous advocate" for her imprisoned client when she
passed messages for him. The appellate ruling said,
quote, "a genuinely held intent to represent a client
'zealously' is not necessarily inconsistent with
The panel also described Stewart's twenty-eight-month
sentence as, quote, "strikingly low" and sent the case
back to the trial judge to determine whether she
deserved a longer prison term. The ruling said Stewart,
who's seventy years old, was to surrender to US
marshals immediately, but her lawyers won her an
extension until at least 5:00 p.m. today.
Well, Lynne Stewart has come to our studios here in New
York. And we welcome you, Lynne, to Democracy Now! Can
you describe your reaction to the ruling?
LYNNE STEWART: Well, in its sweeping and negative tone,
I must say I was first a little bit shocked, because we
had expected, or had hoped, at least, that some of
these important constitutional issues would be decided,
and then very disappointed, on my own behalf,
certainly-personally, you can't discount-but actually,
for all of us, Amy, because these important
constitutional issues-the right to speak to your lawyer
privately without the government listening in, the
right to be safe from having a search conducted of your
lawyer's office-all these things are now swept under
the rug and available to the government.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you, for people who haven't followed
your case, explain exactly what happened, why you were
LYNNE STEWART: I represented Sheikh Omar at trial-that
was in 1995-along with Ramsey Clark and Abdeen Jabara.
I was lead trial counsel. He was convicted in September
of '95, sentenced to a life prison plus a hundred
years, or some sort-one of the usual outlandish
sentences. We continued, all three of us, to visit him
while he was in jail-he was a political client; that
means that he is targeted by the government-and because
it is so important to prisoners to be able to have
access to their lawyers.
Sometime in 1998, I think maybe it was, they imposed
severe restrictions on him. That is, his ability to
communicate with the outside world, to have interviews,
to be able to even call his family, was limited by
something called special administrative measures. The
lawyers were asked to sign on for these special
administrative measures and warned that if these
measures were not adhered to, they could indeed lose
contact with their client-in other words, be removed
from his case.
In 2000, I visited the sheikh, and he asked me to make
a press release. This press release had to do with the
current status of an organization that at that point
was basically defunct, the Gama'a al-Islamiyya. And I
agreed to do that. In May of-maybe it was later than
that. Sometime in 2000, I made the press release.
Interestingly enough, we found out later that the
Clinton administration, under Janet Reno, had the
option to prosecute me, and they declined to do so,
based on the notion that without lawyers like me or the
late Bill Kunstler or many that I could name, the cause
of justice is not well served. They need the gadflies.
So, at any rate, they made me sign onto the agreement
again not to do this. They did not stop me from
representing him. I continued to represent him.
And it was only after 9/11, in April of 2002, that John
Ashcroft came to New York, announced the indictment of
me, my paralegal and the interpreter for the case, on
grounds of materially aiding a terrorist organization.
One of the footnotes to the case, of course, is that
Ashcroft also appeared on nationwide television with
Letterman that night ballyhooing the great work of
Bush's Justice Department in indicting and making the
world safe from terrorism.
The course of the case followed. We tried the case in
2005 to a jury, of course sitting not ten blocks from
the World Trade Center, and an anonymous jury, I might
add, which I think went a long way to contribute to our
convictions. And all three of us were convicted. Since
that time, the appeals process has followed. The appeal
was argued almost two years ago, and the opinion just
came like a-actually like a thunderclap yesterday. And
to just put it in perspective, I think, it comes hard
on the heels of Holder's announcement that they are
bringing the men from Guantanamo to New York to be
tried. That-I'll expand on that, if you wish, but that
basically is where we're at. It's said that I should be
immediately remanded, my bail revoked.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Lynne Stewart. She could
be going to prison at any point. Lynne, I wanted to
read to you from the Times, their description, saying,
"In addressing whether [Ms.] Stewart's sentence was too
lenient, Judge Sack wrote that Judge Koeltl had cited
her 'extraordinary' personal characteristics, and had
described her as 'a dedicated public servant who had,
throughout her career, "represented the poor, the
disadvantaged and the unpopular."'
"But Judge Koeltl had declined to determine whether Ms.
Stewart had lied at trial, a factor he should have
considered in weighing her sentence, Judge Sack wrote.
'We think that whether Stewart lied under oath at her
trial is directly relevant to whether her sentence was
What they talking about? What is their accusation about
you lying at trial?
LYNNE STEWART: Well, of course, I'm not rendering a
legal opinion here, Amy, because I'm officially
disbarred. But I will say that my understanding of the
law is that the judge may consider whether or not a
client or a person who testified in their own defense
lied or even shaded the truth to their own benefit. And
my sense of reading-and I haven't read them over
recently, but my sense of the sentencing was that the
judge did consider it, at least in a manner. He
basically said he did not think it was relevant, and
the court of appeals argued with this.
I, of course, committed no perjury. I spoke on my own
behalf. I described what I did. I'm not sure that the
court of appeals may have liked what I said, but that
is, you know, because the US attorney went into my
politics at great length, as if to say, "See, she has
radical politics, so we know she would have done
something radical." I've always said my politics are
very, very different from the sheikh's politics, and
that was an unfair cut. But notwithstanding that, they
do have the right to consider it. It can be something,
if the judge believed you lied, that can increase your
I have every reason to believe that Judge Koeltl, who
is a most careful judge, a most-a judge described, in
the opinion by Judge Calabresi, as being someone who
makes very wise decisions, considered it-considered it,
rejected it, and went ahead. This was the number-the
sentence he arrived at, twenty-eight months, and we
hope that he will retain the courage that he had in
making that sentence, to stick with it now that the
government, through the Second Circuit, has challenged
AMY GOODMAN: Lynne Stewart, as you were being sentenced
in 2006, you had breast cancer. How are you today?
How's your health?
LYNNE STEWART: The breast cancer is good; I have no
recurrence. I just had a mammogram, even though I'm
seventy. I don't know how that falls into the new
warnings. But at any rate, I'm cancer-free. I have some
other aging problems, woman plumbing stuff, which I
actually am scheduled for surgery on December 7th. My
lawyers are hoping to be able to go to the Second
Circuit and ask them to extend the period of time that
I would have to surrender, in order that this surgery
may be accomplished right here in New York at Lenox
Hill Hospital. We're not sure of that. It does seem
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain how this happens today,
because at this point you have an extension until 5:00
LYNNE STEWART: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: -before going to prison? What will happen
LYNNE STEWART: Well, the judge has asked the lawyers to
research whether he has the power at this point-I mean,
this is like ancient English Magna Carta law. You know,
the case has been appealed. It's in the Second Circuit.
In order for him to order me to prison, it has to be
before him. In other words, the papers, I guess, have
to be carried from the upper floor to the lower floor
to the district court. He wanted them to research
whether or not he can do anything before he has that
mandate. He, of course, can decide that I'm turning
myself in tomorrow. He can also decide that he doesn't
have it until-usually the mandate takes a week to ten
days to come down. So we're sort of on the edge. It
will not preclude my lawyers from going to the circuit
directly and asking them to stay their order of my
immediate remand and revocation of bail. So we're sort
of on the edge. We're-
AMY GOODMAN: Do you know where you will be imprisoned?
LYNNE STEWART: Say that again?
AMY GOODMAN: Do you know where you will be imprisoned?
LYNNE STEWART: No. See, that's one of the other
reasons. It's not only my surgery. It also is the fact
that I've never been designated and also the fact that
the pre-sentence report on which they usually base
these designations is three years old at this point. It
doesn't take into account anything that has happened
So we think there are some grounds for extending the
time, but I think it's fair to say that at this point I
have brought my books and my medicines with me to go to
court this afternoon, and I expect-I expect the worst,
being Irish, but hope for the best, because I'm a
leftist and always optimistic.
AMY GOODMAN: What books have you brought with you?
LYNNE STEWART: I have Snow by-I never pronounce his
name right-Orhan Pamuk. I have The Field of Poppies; I
can't remember the author, terrible, given to me by a
dear comrade, Ralph Schoenman. And I have a couple of
mysteries, because I'm an addict of mysteries, and it
passes the time quickly for me.
AMY GOODMAN: Lynne, would you do anything differently
today, or would you do anything differently back then,
if you knew what you knew today?
LYNNE STEWART: I think I should have been a little more
savvy that the government would come after me. But do
anything differently? I don't-I'd like to think I would
not do anything differently, Amy. I made these
decisions based on my understanding of what the client
needed, what a lawyer was expected to do. They say that
you can't distinguish zeal from criminal intent
sometimes. I had no criminal intent whatsoever. This
was a considered decision based on the need of the
client. And although some people have said press
releases aren't client needs, I think keeping a person
alive when they are in prison, held under the
conditions which we now know to be torture, totally
incognito-not incognito, but totally held without any
contact with the outside world except a phone call once
a month to his family and to his lawyers, I think it
was necessary. I would do it again. I might handle it a
little differently, but I would do it again.
AMY GOODMAN: Lynne Stewart, I want to thank you for
being with us. I hope we can talk to you in prison.
Lynne Stewart has been sentenced to two-and-a-half
years in jail, to be served beginning today, unless a
judge is able to intervene. Thanks so much for being
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
The Veil is Lifted, The Gloves Are Off
By Elaine Brower, War Is A Crime .org
Today at United States District Court in downtown
Manhattan, around the corner from where I work, I
witnessed the sentencing hearing of attorney Lynn
Stewart. I only had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Stewart
five years ago, along with Ralph, her jovial and loving
husband. I never had the honor of her defending me, but
during the course of the last 5 years, I met many
people who did. The courtroom today was packed, leaving
2 overflow rooms, which were also filled to capacity.
Walking into the marble and mahogany building, which I
am no stranger to since I work next door, gave me a
never before eerie feeling. A bronze "Lady Justice" 2
story high statue sat in the main entrance way,
greeting everyone who entered. But it did not give me
comfort, it only once again reminded me of the many
icons of worship this country erects to deflect the
true nature of the beast underneath. I thought to
myself "I'd love to hang a huge banner right in the
middle of her 2 story chest with a big $ sign!"
Sitting in the elaborate overflow room, with all of
Lynn's supporters, then gave me comfort. Watching Lynn
on the 2 screens in front of the room was very sad. She
looked weak, pale and broken. She pleaded for the
court's mercy by presenting her statement to the judge.
In it, she declared that she no longer had a
relationship with her grandson, who could not visit her
any longer in the horrible prison. She said she felt
alone, and withdrawn. Only when her friends and family
came to visit for one hour a week did she rejuvenate
for a short period, but then would retreat back into
somberness and sadness. At one point she choked up when
saying that if the court decided to sentence her to
anytime longer than the original 28 months, it would be
a like imposing the "death sentence". She reiterated
that many times, in so many different ways. She threw
herself at the "mercy" of the judge.
I thought to myself this is not the Lynn Stewart that I
knew, if only for a short time. She was always vibrant
and unafraid. She stood for true justice for the people
who went unrepresented in a system that would make
every attempt to smash them. Why was she begging for
mercy? It broke my heart.
Then the US Attorney stood up and for 30 minutes
recounted the details of the entire trial, repeating
hundreds of times "we were attacked on 9/11", and "Ms.
Stewart gave comfort to Islamic terrorists." These
references were the cornerstone of the prosecution's
argument, and he couldn't say it enough. In every way,
he connected Lynn with the terrorist "murder groups",
and in reality made her the real terrorist. He said
"the government trusted her as a lawyer, and she
shouldn't have been trusted." He referred endless times
to the DVD of her press conference prior to her remand
to prison in 2009, and referenced her statements that
she had "no remorse."
Lucky for me I was in an overflow room. I commented,
loudly, how I hoped this guy would get the pox, and I
wasn't alone. People booed, and said he better not come
into their neighborhoods. How could he sleep at night?
I would be embarrassed to be in his shoes. Is there no
Well, I will answer my own rhetorical questions. There
is no dignity in this system. There is no justice in
this system. There never was, and never will be. There
is only hatred, fear, and an elite system of injustice.
The judge is only a puppet of the state and did what he
was told to do. The prosecutor is a prostitute and
regurgitates enough bullshit to make people afraid
enough to go home and lock their doors so they too
won't wind up like Lynn Stewart. When she was
wrongfully sentenced to 10 years behind bars, there
should have been a riot in the courtroom. Instead,
Folks, it has always been like this. I didn't live
through the McCarthy era, and was happy I didn't. I am
a child of the 60's and the radicalness of the 70's. I
thought, in my naivete, that this country stood for
something good, and protected freedom of speech, the
rights of people of color to live and work without the
threat of police oppression, and most of all, it was a
nation that was accepting and tolerant of those who
came here from all over the world to experience the
What a bunch of crap. It has always been a bad system.
Sometimes there would be breakthroughs in civil rights,
or women's rights, but those where aberrations. Not the
norm. The system would again rise up to take it all
away, because it wasn't meant to be fair and just for
all people, only those who are the elite in this
society. It always brings me back to how this country
was founded, on the blood of those who already lived
And so it goes, we see the true face of American
justice. Take a good look while the veil is lifted,
because it will be dropped again, and you will be
fooled into thinking if only we had more hope.
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