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 [July 15, 2010] 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.
Other related links from Democracy Now!
- EXCLUSIVE: Civil Rights Attorney Lynne Stewart Responds to Court Ruling Upholding Conviction and Ordering Her to Prison
- Civil Rights Attorney Lynne Stewart Sentenced to 28 Months In Jail; Remains Free On Bail
- Facing Up To 30 Years in Prison, Civil Rights Attorney Lynne Stewart Speaks Out As She Heads To Courthouse for Sentencing
- Convicted Attorney Lynne Stewart: "You Can’t Lock Up the Lawyers"
- "Free the 6th Amendment, The Right to Counsel": Attorney Lynne Stewart Blasts Gv’t. Terror Case Against Her
other Related Links
Lynne Stewart sentenced to ten years in prison
BY JEFF MACKLER
(Jeff Mackler is the West Coast Director of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.)
The full force of the U.S. criminal “justice” system came down on innocent political prisoner, 30-year veteran human rights attorney and radical political activist Lynne Stewart today, July 15, 2010.
In an obviously pre-prepared one hour and twenty minute technical tour de force designed to give legitimacy to a reactionary ruling Federal District Court John Koeltl, who in 2005 sentenced Stewart to 28 months in prison following her frame-up trial and jury conviction on four counts of “conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism,” re-sentenced Stewart to 120 months or ten years. Stewart will serve her sentence in Danbury, Connecticut’s minimum security prison.
The jam-packed New York Federal District Court chamber observers where Koeltl held forth let our a gasp of pain and anguish as Lynne’s family and friends were stunned – tears flowing down the stricken and somber faces of many. A magnificent Stewart, ever the political fighter and organizer was able to say to her supporters that she felt badly because she “had let them down,” a reference to the massive outpouring of solidarity and defiance that was the prime characteristic of Lynne’s long fight for freedom.
Judge Koeltl was ordered to revisit his relatively short sentence when it was overturned by a two-judge majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judges Robert D. Sack and Guido Calabresi ruled that Koeltl’s sentence was flawed because he had declined to determine whether Stewart committed perjury when she testified at her trial that she believed that she was effectively operating under a “bubble” protecting her from prosecution when she issued a press release on behalf of her also framed-up client, the blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman. Rachman was falsely charged with conspiracy to damage New York state buildings.
Dissenting Judge John M. Walker, who called Stewart’s sentence, “breathtakingly low” in view of Stewart’s “extraordinarily severe criminal conduct” deemed the Second Circuit’s majority opinion “substantively unreasonable.” Walker essentially sought to impose or demand a 30-year sentence.
The three-judge panel on Dec. 20, 2009 followed its initial ruling with even tougher language demanding that Koeltl revisit his treatment of the “terrorism enhancement” aspects of the law. A cowardly Koeltl, who didn’t need this argument to dramatically increase Stewart’s sentence, asserted that he had already taken it under consideration in his original deliberations.
Government prosecutors, who in 2005 sought a 30-year sentence, had submitted a 155-page memorandum arguing in support of a 15-30 year sentence. Their arguments demonstrated how twisted logic coupled with vindictive and lying government officials routinely turn the victim into the criminal.
Stewart’s attorneys countered with a detailed brief recounting the facts of the case and demonstrating that Stewart’s actions in defense of her client were well within the realm of past practice and accepted procedures. They argued that Koeltl properly exercised his discretion in determining that, while the terrorism enhancement provisions of the “law” had to be taken into consideration, the 30-year-prison term associated with it was “dramatically unreasonable, overstated the seriousness” of Stewart’s conduct and had already been factored into Koeltl’s decision.
Stewart’s attorney’s also argued convincingly in their brief that the Special Administrative Measure (SAM) that Stewart was convicted of violating by releasing a statement from her client to the media was well within the established practice of Stewart’s experienced and mentoring co-counsels- former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and past American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee president Abdeen Jabarra. Both had issued similar statements to the press with no government reprisal. Clark was an observer in Koeltl’s courtroom.
As worst in such matters, government officials refuse defense attorneys visiting rights with their clients until an agreement on a contested interpretation of a SAM is reached. Indeed, in Stewart’s case when the matter was brought to then Attorney General Janet Reno, the government declined to prosecute or otherwise take any action against Stewart.
But Koeltl, who had essentially accepted this view in his original sentence, reversed himself entirely and proceeded in his erudite-sounding new rendition of the law to repeatedly charge Stewart with multiple acts of perjury regarding her statements on the SAM during her trial.
Koeltl took the occasion to lecture Stewart regarding the first words she uttered in front of a bevy of media when she joyfully alighted from the courthouse following the judge’s original 28-month sentence. Said Stewart at that time, “I can do 28 months standing on my head.” A few moments earlier Stewart, with nothing but a plastic bag containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and her various medications, had stood before Koeltl, who had been asked by the government to sentence Stewart to a 30 year term, effectively a death sentence for Lynne, aged 70, a diabetic recovering breast cancer victim and less than excellent health.
Koeltl dutifully followed the lead of the Second Circuit judges, who feigned outrage that Stewart could possibly appear joyful that her life was spared despite 28 months in prison. Koeltl insisted that Stewart’s remark was essentially contemptuous of his sentence and insufficient to convince Stewart of the seriousness of her “crime.” Lynne’s argument that while she fully understood that 28 months behind bars, separating from her “family, friends and comrades,” was a harsh penalty, she was nevertheless “relieved” that she would not die in prison. Koeltl needed a legal brick to throw at Lynne’s head and ignored her humanity, honesty and deep feeling of relief when she expressed it to a crowd of two thousand friends, supporters and a good portion of the nation’s media.
The same Judge Koeltl who stated in 2005, when he rendered the 28-month jail term, that Lynne was “a credit to her profession and to the nation,” clearly heard the voice of institutionalized hate and cruelty and responded in according with its unstated code. “Show no mercy! Thou shall not dissent without grave punishment” in capitalist America.
Lynne was convicted in the post-911 generated climate of political hysteria. Bush appointee, Attorney General John Ashcroft, decided to make an example of her aimed at warning future attorneys that the mere act of defending anyone whom the government charged with “conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism,” could trigger terrible consequences.
On July 15 Judge Koeltl made the decision of his career. Known for his meticulous preparation in such matters, and already having enraged the powers that be with his “light” sentence of Stewart, he bent full tilt to the reactionary political pressures exerted on him by the court hierarchy. He had the option to stand tall and reaffirm his original decision. The “law” allowed him to do so. He could have permitted Lynne to leave prison in less than two years, recover her health, and lead a productive life. His massively extended sentence, unless overturned, will likely lead to Lynne’s demise behind bars – a brilliant and dedicated fighter sacrificed on the alter of an intolerant class-biased system of repression and war.
Courage is a rare quality in the capitalist judiciary. For every defiant decision made, usually driven by a change in the political climate driven forward by the rise of mass social protest movements, there are thousands and more of political appointees that affirm the status quo, including its punishment of all who struggle to challenge capitalist prerogatives and power.
Lynne Stewart stands tall among the latter. We can only hope that the winds of change that are stirring the consciousness of millions today in the context of an American capitalism in economic and moral crisis keeps the movement for her freedom alive and well. The fight is not over! What we do now remains critical. Lynne’s expected appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court cannot be written off as absurd and hopeless. What we do collectively to free her and all political prisoners and to fight for freedom and justice on every front counts for everything!
Write to Lynne at:
Lynne Stewart 53504-054
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007
For further information call Lynne’s husband, Ralph Poynter, leader of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, at
718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759.
Send contributions payable to:
Lynne Stewart Organization
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York, 11216
[Comment: A Death Sentence Delivered]
Where was the massive movement to set attorney Lynne Stewart free?
Time served? Why do we allow our enemies to set the tone, pace, debate, discourse and agenda? It keeps us off balance and off our A game. The 28-month sentence was ridiculous.
Lynne broke a law that was inherently unconstitutional. No one was hurt, maimed or killed by her actions but she has received a death sentence because ten years-- for a 70 year-old woman fighting cancer and poor prison medical care spells death.
In contrast George Bush’s and now President Barack Obama’s war policies that kill people every day. Our inability to secure the release of Stewart supports my assertion that the so-called “movement” has stopped and has functionally collapsed.
Despite all the issues that plague this case and many cases like this is the innate inability for individuals and groups to put aside small and petty differences for the prevailing issues.
Where’s my name on this flier? Whose speaking first and how much time will I get on the microphone or stage?
I’m not coming or supporting if this person or group is there. Lynne is not Black; Lynne is not Brown; she didn’t support me; Lynne is too radical...These are the petty issues that emasculate the movement.
No, you’re probably not radical enough and she makes you feel uneasy because your uninspiring weak approach sounds so silly and corny against her clear courageous uncompromising analysis. The back biting and murmuring amongst the agenda-less, corrupted, dysfunctional and disheveled “grass root progressives” has led us to exactly where we are today. Where the wicked can at will kill us in broad daylight, snatch our young, crush our dreams and imprison and, or, kill the best thinkers, speakers and fighters.
We must start afresh. Imagine a world where Mumia, Peltier, The Cuban Five, Mehanna and Lynne are among us. When things collapse it’s not always a bad thing--unless you’re caught in the debris. It’s a time to start unsullied--introduce new and youthful ideas, blood and tools. And to get things right and learn from past mistakes. We need:
1. Zero tolerance for gossip, back biting and slander. Only the facts.
2. Individuals and groups will be judged on what they actually do.
3. A resurgence of a people-led lunch, literacy and health program.
4. Ending all vertical movements-lead by example and everyone should be an example.
5. Defy containment.
6. Destroy the illusion.
7. Crush the Machine.
On the other hand knowing what I know about Lynne there will be a surge in jail house lawyers, prison reform and anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist and anti-fascist revolutionaries. One of my catch phrases for the last 25 years has been, "this entire system was never designed to empower us”. Knowing this and being in media, everything I touch is aimed at exposing, indicting and criticizing this system while creatively designing a world without fascists, imperialists and dictators masked in
Lynne was not the only one indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced; every attorney who would defend the poor; the destitute; the unpopular; the depraved; the insane; the Innocent; the framed; the Black; the Brown; the Red; the Yellow; the radical thinker; the school teacher who teaches Mao, Huey and Avakian; and so forth. We all have been sentenced to a lack of access to this beautiful bright light that made us better every day.
One day Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzales, Powell and Cheney were in jail and needed a great defense attorney. They’re all looking around at each other and Sarah Palin asks, "What happened to that frumpy passionate woman attorney Lynne Stewart?" Cheney looks over at Bush and says, “That’s another thing you screwed up.”
U-Savior is a journalist, media activist and filmmaker. He is the director of Disappearing Voices - The Decline of Black Radio.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. www.disappearingvoices.com
Thursday Jul 15th, 2010 7:40 PM
This is what you get when you vote for the insulting "lesser evil," which does not exist in reality. A person is evil or is not evil, and there is certainly nothing lesser about Barack Obama or the rest of his rotten Democratic Party, just as fascist as the Republican Party. The claim that you were voting for the first black president in the hope for change is ludicrous. We have had black mayors in this country for years and they are all just as reactionary as the white mayors because they represent the same capitalist class.
Change your registration today to socialist Peace & Freedom Party or the Green Party which support Lynne Stewart and oppose thise horrifying frame-up of workingclass lawyers. Socialists and Greens are also, unlike the Democratic Party, for peace, 100% for gay marriage, for socialized medicine, against the death penalty, against any offshore oil drilling, 100% for abortion, for the Palestinian liberation struggle, and much more. If you want anything good to happen, you have to vote for good people. See