Lynne Stewart: Heroic Human Rights Lawyer Jailed
By Stephen Lendman
20 November, 2009
On November 20, New York Times writer Colin Moynihan broke the news headlining:
"Radical Lawyer Convicted of Aiding Terrorist Is Jailed," [see below]
"Defiant to the end as she embraced supporters outside the federal
courthouse in Lower Manhattan, Lynne F. Stewart, the radical lawyer
known for defending unpopular clients, surrendered on Thursday to
begin serving her 28-month sentence for assisting terrorism."
Stewart did what all attorneys should, but few, in fact, do - observe
the American Bar Association's Model Rules saying all lawyers are obligated to:
"devote professional time and resources and use civic influence to
ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who
because of economic or social barriers cannot afford or secure
adequate legal counsel."
Also to practice law ethically, morally and responsibly to assure
everyone is afforded due process and judicial fairness in American
courts. Sadly and disturbingly, Stewart was denied what she did for
others heroically, unselfishly, and proudly. More on that below.
Stewart (prison number 53504-054) is now jailed at:
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007
Betrayed by American Justice
For 30 years, Stewart worked heroically to defend America's poor,
underprivileged, and unwanted, never afforded due process and
judicial fairness without an advocate like her. Where others wouldn't
go, she defended controversial figures like David Gilbert of the
Weather Underground, Richard Williams of the United Freedom Front,
Sekou Odinga and Nasser Ahmed of the Black Liberation Army, and many
more like them. She knew the risk, but did it fearlessly and
courageously until bogusly indicted on April 9, 2002 for:
-- "conspiring to defraud the United States;
-- conspiring to provide and conceal material support to terrorist activity;
-- providing and concealing material support to terrorist activity; and
-- two counts of making false statements."
She was also accused of violating US Bureau of Prisons Special
Administrative Measures (SAMs) that included a gag order on her
client, Sheik Abdel Rahman. When imposed, they prohibit discussion on
topics the Justice Department (DOJ) rules outside of "legal
representation," so lawyers can't discuss them with clients, thus
inhibiting their defense.
At former US Attorney General Ramzy Clark's request, she joined him
as part of Rahman's court-appointed defense team. In his 1995 show
trial, he was convicted and is now serving a life sentence for
seditious conspiracy, solicitation of murder, solicitation of an
attack on American military installations, conspiracy to murder, and
conspiracy to bomb in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center
attack despite evidence proving his innocence on all charges.
The DOJ's case wasn't about alleged crimes. It reflected his
affiliations and anti-western views. Rahman was connected to the
Egyptian-based Al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya - a 1997 US State
Department-designated "foreign terrorist organization." In the 1980s,
however, he helped the CIA recruit Mujahadeen fighters against the
Soviets in Afghanistan. For his work, he got a US visa, green card,
and State Department-CIA protection as long as he was valued. When no
longer, he was targeted along with Stewart.
Her case was precedent-setting, chilling, and according to the Center
of Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner:
sent "a message to lawyers who represent alleged terrorists that it's
dangerous to do so."
Her attorney, Michael Tigar, called it:
"an attack on a gallant, charismatic and effective fighter for
justice (with) at least three fundamental faults:
-- (it) attack(ed) the First Amendment right of free speech, free
press and petition;
-- the right to effective assistance of counsel (by) chill(ing) the
-- the 'evidence' in this case was gathered by wholesale invasion of
private conversations, private-attorney-client meetings, faxes,
letters and e-mails; I have never seen such an abuse of government power."
Her 2004 - 2005 show trial was a mockery of justice with echoes of
the worst McCarthy-like tactics. Inflammatory terrorist images were
displayed in court to prejudice the jury, and prosecutors vilified
Stewart as a traitor with "radical" political views. In addition,
days before the verdict, the militant pro-Israeli Jewish Defense
Organization put up flyers near the courthouse displaying her
address. It threatened to "drive her out of her home and out of the
state," and said she "needs to be put out of business legally and effectively."
It was part of the orchestrated scheme inside and outside the
courtroom to heighten fear, convict Stewart, and intimidate other
lawyers to expect the same treatment if they dare represent unpopular
On February 10, 2005 (after a seven month trial and 13 days of
deliberation) she was convicted on all five counts. Under New York
state law, she was automatically disbarred, and the state Supreme
Court's Appellate Division denied her petition to resign voluntarily.
On October 17, 2006, she was sentenced to 28 months imprisonment, but
remained free on bond pending appeal before the US Court of Appeals
for the Second Circuit.
Stewart Ordered to Prison
The Justice for Lynne Stewart web site (lynnestewart.org) announced
the news. On November 17, the Appeals Court revoked her bond, upheld
the verdict, ordered her surrender forthwith, but stayed it until
November 19 at 5PM to let her attorney file a motion for
reconsideration. It was denied, so she must report to federal
marshals as directed. A November 19 conversation with Lynne and her
husband Ralph confirmed it.
The situation remains fluid, dire, and complicated by Stewart's
battle with breast cancer. She has surgery scheduled for December 7,
unlikely now, but if done in prison or where authorities direct, it
won't be the quality she deserves.
In its ruling, the three judge panel (John Walker, Guido Calebresi
and Robert Sack) was firm, hostile and belligerent in upholding the
lower court's conviction. Judge Sack accused Stewart of lying and
called for a longer sentence. "We think that whether (she) lied under
oath at her trial is directly relevant to whether her sentence was
appropriate," he wrote, and directed District Court Judge John Koeltl
to re-sentence her "so as to reflect that finding." Judge Walker was
even harsher, calling the original sentence "breathtakingly low."
Judge Calabrese said: "I am at a loss for any rationale upon this
record that could reasonably justify a sentence of 28 months'
imprisonment for this defendant."
They all said Stewart was "convicted principally with respect to (her
violating) measures by which (she) had agreed to abide," namely SAMs.
They rejected her "argument that, as a lawyer, she was not bound by
(them), and her belated argument collaterally attacking their
constitutionality." They also:
"affirm(ed her conviction) of providing and concealing material
support to the conspiracy to murder persons in a foreign country
(and) of conspiring to provide and conceal such support....We
conclude that the charges were valid (and) the evidence was
sufficient to sustain the convictions. We also reject Stewart's
claims that her purported attempt to serve as a 'zealous advocate'
for her client provides her with immunity from the convictions...."
"Finally, we affirm Stewart's convictions for knowingly and willfully
making false statements....when she affirmed that she intended to,
and would, abide by the SAMs. In light of her repeated and flagrant
violation of (them), a reasonable factfinder could conclude that
(her) representations that she intended to and would abide by the
SAMs were knowingly false when made. We reject the remaining
challenges to the convictions. (We) affirm the district court's
rejection of Stewart's claim that she was selectively prosecuted on
account of her gender or political beliefs....We therefore affirm the
convictions in their entirety."
They redirected her case to District Court Judge Koeltl for
re-sentencing. The DOJ wants 30 years. Koeltl originally imposed 28
months, let Stewart remain free on bond pending appeal, implied his
decision might be overturned because of a gross miscarriage of
justice, effectively rebuked the Bush administration at the time, and
handed it a major defeat. Her fate is now in his hands, but justice
has already been denied at a time we're all as vulnerable as she if
we dare resist state policies, unchanged under an administration no
different from its predecessor.
In a November 17 news conference, Stewart said:
"I'm too old to cry, but it hurts too much not to." In criticizing
the Court's decision, she said its timing "on the eve of the arrival
of the tortured men from offshore prison in Guantanamo" suggests that
lawyers appointed to represent them may face the same fate as she.
"If you're going to lawyer for these people, you'd better toe very
close to the line that the government has set out (because they'll)
be watching you every inch of the way, (so those who don't) will end
up like Lynne Stewart. This is a case that is bigger than just me
personally (but she added that she'll) go on fighting."
So will her lawyer, Joshua Dratel, who said he'll pursue it "as far
and as long as we can," including a possible Supreme Court review.
The Obama US attorney's office was silent, effectively affirming a
gross injustice at a time the due process and judicial fairness
thresholds are so low that all Americans risk the same fate as Lynne.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on
Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at
Radical Lawyer Convicted of Aiding Terrorist Is Jailed
By COLIN MOYNIHAN
Published: November 20, 2009
Defiant to the end as she embraced emotional supporters outside the
federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan, Lynne F. Stewart, the radical
lawyer known for defending unpopular clients, surrendered on Thursday
evening to begin serving her 28-month sentence for assisting terrorism.
"This is the day they executed Joe Hill, and his words were, 'Don't
mourn me, organize,' " Ms. Stewart said as she walked toward the
courthouse, referring to the labor organizer executed on Nov. 19,
1915, after a controversial trial. "I hope that will be the message
that I send, too."
After a lengthy trial, a jury in 2005 convicted Ms. Stewart, now 70,
of providing material aid to terrorism and of lying to the government
while helping an imprisoned client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman,
communicate with his followers in Egypt.
The sheik, a blind fundamentalist cleric, was serving a life sentence
after his 1995 conviction for organizing a thwarted plot to blow up
landmarks in New York. Ms. Stewart assisted him by communicating a
statement from him to a reporter in Cairo, which allowed his
followers to learn of it.
The start of her prison term was put off while she appealed her
conviction and so she could receive treatment for breast cancer. But
on Tuesday, a federal appeals court panel upheld the verdict and
ordered that Ms. Stewart begin serving her sentence.
The appellate judges, questioning what one called a "breathtakingly
low" sentence, also sent the case back to the trial judge, John G.
Koeltl of Federal District Court, to determine if Ms. Stewart
deserved a longer sentence in light of the seriousness of her conduct
and the possibility that she had lied during her trial.
Two co-defendants, Ahmed Abdel Sattar and Mohamed Yousry, were also
convicted at the 2005 trial. Mr. Sattar is serving a 24-year
sentence. Mr. Yousry, who translated Ms. Stewart's conversations with
her client, was sentenced to 20 months and also surrendered.
Ms. Stewart surrendered to United States marshals at the courthouse.
Prosecutors said that it had not been determined where she would be
sent. In sentencing Ms. Stewart, Judge Koeltl wrote that she had
engaged in "extraordinarily severe" criminal conduct. But he also
acknowledged her long record of representing the disadvantaged, the
destitute and the despised.
Indeed, over the years, Ms. Stewart often took on cases nobody else
wanted. She won an acquittal for Larry Davis, who had been accused of
wounding six police officers in a 1986 shootout in the Bronx, and
represented David J. Gilbert, a member of the Weather Underground
convicted in the 1981 robbery of a Brink's armored car in Rockland
County. Other clients, however, were merely poor and obscure, and Ms.
Stewart was a passionate advocate for them.
As she walked slowly toward the courthouse, holding the arm of her
husband, Ralph Poynter, she paused to greet friends. More than 100
people chanted "Free Lynne Stewart."
Then she stood behind metal barricades and gave a farewell speech.
She said she would not change much about the past if she could, and
urged younger lawyers to defend clients zealously.
"They can put me in jail, but my love, my ideas, my forcefulness I
hope will remain with all of you," she said. "And I will return."