Court Confirms Ten-Year Sentence for Lynne Stewart
BY JEFF MACKLER
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today confirmed the 2010 decision of Federal District Court Judge John Koeltl to change his 28-month jail sentence for radical attorney and human rights activist, Lynne Stewart, to ten years. The court's June 28, 2012 decision was not unexpected.
Following federal prosecutors' appeal of what was widely considered a "lenient sentence," the Second Circuit all but ordered a compliant Koeltl to re-sentence Stewart and harshly. Koeltl did just that forcing Stewart to appeal to the very court that originally pressured Koeltl, in what was widely considered a "career decision" to do Stewart great harm.
Stewart was convicted at an outrageous 2005 New York frame-up trial on five counts of conspiracy to aid and abet and provide material support to terrorism. Her crime? Representing the "blind Sheik," the Egyptian cleric, Omar Abdel Rachman, who has also been convicted on trumphed-up conspiracy charges, Stewart issued a press release from her client stating his views on how Egyptian Muslim oppositionists should react to the ongoing crimes and murders of Egypt's then President Hosni Mubarak.
Stewart was convicted of violating a vaguely-worded court-ordered SAM (Special Administrative Measure) that barred her from revealing her client's opinions. The penalty for such violations had traditionally been a mild slap on the wrist, perhaps a warning to not repeat the "violation" and to bar attorney-client visits for a few months. Stewart, barring an unlikely Supreme Court reversal, will now serve her ten-year sentence with perhaps a one-year or ten percent reduction for "good behavior." She is presently incarcerated at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.
Koeltl's original 28-month sentence statement, in the face of federal prosecutors demanding 30 years, noted that Stewart, known for representing the poor and oppressed for three decades with little financial remuneration, was a "credit to the legal profession." Stewart served as lead counsel for her client along with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who testified on her behalf during the trial. Clark himself has issued similar press releases with no punishment. Indeed, an indignant prosecutor during Stewart's trail suggested that Clark himself be charged with conspiracy, but his superiors decided that imprisoning the nation's former top attorney was not yet in their game plan and the suggestion was ignored.
The Second Circuit decision was based on the allegations that Stewart demonstrated insufficient deference to the original sentence. The court claimed that her statement to the media immediately following her sentence that, "I can do 28 months standing on my head" demonstrated contempt for the legal system. I was standing next to Stewart at that moment and was saw nothing other than a great expression of relief that she would not be sentenced, in effect to death, based on the 30 years that federal prosecutors sought. Stewart entered the sentencing hearing on that day, totally ignorant of whether her sentence would be the deeply punishing 30 years demanded by the federal prosecutors or perhaps something that she, 70 years old at the time, could "live with" and look forward to a normal life. She carried nothing but a plastic bag, some medicines and a toothbrush.
The Second Circuit also too umbrage at Stewart's courageous statement when she took the stand to make her closing remarks. Her attorney at that moment, Michael Tiger, asked, referring to Stewart's issuing the press release on her client's behalf, "Lynne, if you had to do it all over again would you do the same thing?" With a tear in her eye, Stewart stated, "I would hope that I would have the courage to do it again, I would do it again." Stewart also insisted that her sworn duty to represent her client had to weighed against the formalities of laws or court orders that prevented such diligent representation.
This refusal to bow to authority, to show the "required deference" to legal bullies with power, outraged her persecutors, who sought vengeance in the rigged criminal "justice" system.
Stewart's now rejected appeal argued three essential points:
I. In relying on Lynne Stewart's public statements to enhance the original sentence of 28 months, her First Amendment rights were abridged
II. The fourfold increase in the sentence was substantively unreasonable and failed to balance her lifetime of contribution to the community and country with the criminal act of which she was convicted.
III The Judge's findings of Perjury and Misuse of her position as an Attorney on which he also based the increase, were error.
"Free Lynne Stewart" must remain the rallying cry of all those who cherish civil liberties and democratic rights. Stewart, like so many others, but perhaps among the first tier, was a victim of the government-promoted malicious and murderous "war on terror" aimed at stifling all dissent and imprisoning the innocent to justify its wars against working people at home and against the oppressed and exploited across the globe.
Write Stewart at:
Lynne Stewart 53504-054
Ft. Worth, Texas
Contributions can be made payable to the:
Lynne Stewart Organization
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York 11216
Jeff Mackler is the West Coast Coordinator of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
Thanks, Carole Seligman for this Autobiographical statement from Lynne Stewart (12/11)
My name is Lynne Stewart and I am currently jailed by the US government at, Federal Medical Center, a medical prison in Texas. I am serving a ten year sentence. Before this I was a top criminal defense lawyer in New York City for many decades.
Like so many others, I came to "the city" from somewhere else --not Kansas or Iowa, but only a subway ride away -- Eastern Queens, white Queens of the nineteen fifties. In l961 I lived with my infant daughter, Brenna, on Broome Street near Pitt with a view of the Williamsburg Bridge. The Lower East Side was the beginning of a post graduate education which was advanced in depth and racist enlightenment the following Fall when I began as an elementary school librarian in the heart of Black Harlem. My experiences there and as part of the activist militant movement of the 1960s -- particularly community control of schools; anti Viet Nam war, my meeting and partnership with Ralph Poynter, my husband; my subsequent move to PS 64 on 9 Street and Avenue C and the challenge of fighting the problems of my own neighbors and community -- all contributed to changing a very savvy innocent into a woman warrior for people's and particularly children's rights.
By the early '70s the thrilling spirit of the 60's, and particularly our struggle around the schools, was dying -- co-opted and blatantly coldly bought off. "Comrades" we thought were at the barricades shoulder to shoulder with us, were more interested in a job or an apartment or a political appointment than in saving the children, even their own. (The beginning of the "I got mine" mentality that has morphed into the privileged 1%.) I was in a quandary: Should I squander my talents shoring up an educational system that was racist and doomed children to future failures or should I move on?
I will never forget the day I went, after school, to his storefront motorcycle shop to talk to Ralph. I told him that I felt if I remained in the school system I would end up an eccentric, a shopping bag lady, driven mad by the daily wanton cruelty and racism. He said, "Well, what do you want to do?" (At that moment, I had two children and he had four and I was expecting our youngest. He had a struggling small business.) I said "You know I always wanted to be a lawyer, go to law school." He said, with no hesitation, "Then I guess you better do it." And I did. Our baby girl was born in April 1971. I started Rutgers Law School with a scholarship (a full ride, as the young people say today) in September, and was fortunate to find Arthur Kinoy, a renowned Constitutional law scholar and a warrior of the Civil Rights legal struggle in Mississippi, as a teacher. Thirty years later when the government came after me, Arthur accorded me my highest accolade when at a public rally he said I was the Peoples' Lawyer. And I was.
I don't want to present my career to you -- that's for another day. I can say that for thirty years I practiced law as I lived my life according to principles of love and service, that which we talk about every Sunday at St. Marks, the "do unto others" and the "love your brothers and sisters as yourself," and according to the principles of Justice that have become part of my life from my years of Political Struggle. I had a forum to fight in -- the courtroom -- and I loved every minute of it.
Many of you know that the U.S. came after me for being too good a lawyer for my clients, and when representing Dr. Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian Muslim cleric, accused of terrorism on the word of a double agent, I made a press release to Reuters News on his behalf. He had been a leader in the anti-Mubarak, free Egypt movement for twenty years and the news release was to express his views of the current situation in Egypt, publicly. For this I was convicted of aiding terrorism. It is a joy to me that the Arab Spring that ousted Mubarak and the continuation of the Egyptian quest for true democracy has put the lie, and the shame to the U.S. government.
When I spoke earlier of the philosophy I espoused during my career, I think it was best expressed in a speech I gave to the National Lawyers Guild Convention. I stated the following;
We have formidable enemies not unlike those in the tales of ancient days. There is a consummate evil that unleashes its dogs of war on the helpless; an enemy motivated only by insatiable greed, with no thought of consequences. In this enemy there is no love of the land or the creatures that live there, no compassion for the people. This enemy will destroy the air we breathe and the water we drink as long as the dollars keep filling up their money boxes.
...we have been charged once again, with, and for, our quests, ... to shake the very foundations of the continents.
We go out to stop police brutality - To rescue the imprisoned - To change the rules for those who have never ever been able to get to the
starting line much less run the race, because of color, physical condition, gender, mental impairment.
We go forth to preserve the air and land and water and sky and all the beasts that crawl and fly.
We go forth to safeguard the right to speak and write, to join; to learn, to rest safe at home, to be secure, fed, healthy, sheltered, loved and loving, to be at peace with ones identity.
... Our quests are formidable. We have in Washington a poisonous government that spreads its venom to the body politic in all corners of the globe. We have war - big war in Iraq, big war in Afghanistan, smaller wars in Columbia, Central Africa, Southeast Asia. We have detainees and political prisoners at home and now ... we have those Democratic and Republican conventions and then an election, with the corporate media ready to hype the results and drown out the righteous protests."
We still have quests and they are not those that can only be accomplished by lawyers. They are for everyone. I am still fighting from inside the prison -- speaking out for the underdogs and those who are always kicked to the curb.
I want to be in the real world (although this is real enough) to be able to organize everyone to the terrible torture and tragedy of prisons and particularly, the brave men and women, of the struggles of the '60s who are held in the harshest conditions and have been for 30 or more years --to name a few, Sundiata Acoli, Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Jaan Laaman, Mutulu Shakur, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox. Many more political prisoners are listed on the Jericho website.
I too confronted the Judges who thought that my original sentence was too light for my "crime" on February 29 in the Federal Court at Foley Square. It was good that many people came to demonstrate collectively our contempt for this kind of prosecution and our recognition that their punishment of true defenders will not deter the brave warriors who seek Justice!