Treasonous Lawyer Begs for Mercy
Lynne Stewart, a lawyer who helped Omar Abdel Rahman get messages back to terrorists who are at war with the United States, is going to argue she deserves mercy because she was too emotionally invested in the case to make sound judgments.
The New York lawyer who was convicted of material support for terrorism after carrying messages for her client, terrorist sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, is scheduled to be sentenced today to as much as 30 years in prison.
She and her allies are pinning their hopes for leniency on a strategy that argues she became so emotionally involved in the sheik’s case that she acted irrationally — a strategy that is underpinned by a sealed letter to the court from a psychiatrist. A psychiatric report submitted to the federal judge in Manhattan who will decide the sentence, John Koeltl, claims that several emotional events in Stewart’s life suggest her actions were motivated by “human factors of her client and his situation” and not by politics, according to portions of the psychiatric report.
The psychiatrist, Steven Teich, points to 11 emotional events that he claims prompted her to want to take action on Abdel Rahman’s behalf, Stewart’s attorneys say. Among the events that make Dr.Teich’s list are her experiences seeing Abdel Rahman incarcerated and the 1995 suicide of a drug defendant named Dominick Maldonado, whom Stewart had once represented.
So what? We’re supposed to be lenient toward someone who committed treason against the United States because she was sympathetic to a client who attempted to kill thousands of people at the World Trade Center? Boo frickin’ hoo.
And, interestingly, this is an entirely different tune than she was singing during the evidenciary phase of the trial.
Judge Koeltl has wide leeway to sentence Stewart as he sees fit. Stewart’s case file contains hundreds of letters from supporters ranging from state Senator Thomas Duane to an assistant attorney general from 1993 to 1995, Jo Ann Harris, who seek to sway Judge Koeltl towards leniency. Stewart’s lawyers have asked Judge Koeltl to spare Stewart prison time. The government has requested a 30-year prison term. A term of that length would likely mean that Stewart, who is 67 and plagued by health problems, would die in prison.
Truly a shame, that. But, as the old joke goes, while she’s probably not going to be able to serve out the entire thirty years, she should do the best she can.
Stewart was convicted in 2005 of providing material support for terrorism for passing on the messages Abdel Rahman gave her and her translator during visits with him in federal prison in Minnesota. Abdel Rahman, the spiritual leader of a terrorist group in Egypt, is serving a life term following his 1995 conviction in a conspiracy to blow up landmarks around New York. Following a conversation with Abdel Rahman in 2000, Stewart called a Reuters reporter in Cairo to say that Abdel Rahman had withdrawn his support from a ceasefire that his terrorist organization, the Islamic Group, was observing in Egypt.
Since being indicted four years ago, Stewart had defended her actions. “I would do it again— it’s the way a lawyer is supposed to behave.” Stewart told reporters the day of her conviction, the Washington Post reported. But Stewart has switched tacks as her sentencing approaches. Now she blames her decision to serve as Abdel Rahman’s mouthpiece on the emotional attachment she feels for the 68 year-old, blind and ailing sheik.
So, she’s not only a traitor but a liar.
Doug Berman argues that the judge will likely “decide to lean heavily on the guidelines to provide a kind of cover for his sentencing decision” but is unclear exactly which guidelines apply.
Update (Steve Verdon): She gets 28 months.
Update (James Joyner): Details on the sentencing from AP.
Civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart was sentenced Monday to 28 months in prison on a terrorism charge for helping a client who plotted to blow up New York City landmarks communicate with his followers, a sentence far less than 30 years prosecutors wanted.
Stewart, 67, smiled as the judge announced he would send her to prison for less than 2 1/2 years.
“If you send her to prison, she’s going to die. It’s as simple as that,” defense lawyer Elizabeth Fink had told the judge before the sentence was pronounced.
Stewart, who was treated last year for breast cancer, was convicted in 2005 of providing material support to terrorists. She had released a statement by Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind Egyptian sheik sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted in plots to blow up five New York landmarks and assassinate Egypt’s president.
Prosecutors have called the case a major victory in the war on terrorism. They said Stewart and other defendants carried messages between the sheik and senior members of an Egyptian-based terrorist organization, helping spread Abdel-Rahman’s call to kill those who did not subscribe to his extremist interpretation of Islamic law.
In a letter to the judge before her hearing, Stewart proclaimed: “I am not a traitor.” “The end of my career truly is like a sword in my side,” She said in court Monday. “Permit me to live out the rest of my life productively, lovingly, righteously.”
In a pre-sentence document, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl that Stewart’s “egregious, flagrant abuse of her profession, abuse that amounted to material support to a terrorist group, deserves to be severely punished.”
Stewart, in her letter to the judge, said she did not intentionally enter into any plot or conspiracy to aid a terrorist organization. She believes the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made her behavior intolerable in the eyes of the government and gave it an excuse to make an example out of her. “The government’s characterization of me and what occurred is inaccurate and untrue,” she wrote. “It takes unfair advantage of the climate of urgency and hysteria that followed 9/11 and that was relived during the trial. I did not intentionally enter into any plot or conspiracy to aid a terrorist organization.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dember argued at her sentencing that the case had nothing to with Sept. 11. “What she was doing was smuggling terrorism messages and smuggling out Abdel-Rahman’s responses,” Dember said.
Needless to say, I agree with Dember’s characterization. Since so few have been convicted of anything remotely similar to Stewart’s crimes, it’s difficult to know what the standard should be for punishment. Still, 28 months strikes me as very little punishment for treason. Hopefully, her lawyer is right and any prison sentence at all amounts to a death sentence. Sadly, she’s being permitted to remain free while she appeals, which is outrageous given that she does not dispute the facts of the crime.