Lawyer Faces New Vindictive Charges
Federal prosecutors filed new charges yesterday against the defense lawyer Lynne F. Stewart, who had succeeded in getting a federal judge to dismiss earlier charges that she had helped one of her clients, a convicted terrorist, pass messages from prison.
The new charges accuse Ms. Stewart of conspiring to provide material support with a co-defendant, Mohammed Yousry, a translator, to the same client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence in prison after being convicted of plotting to blow up New York landmarks. Ms. Stewart and Mr. Yousry are also charged with concealing their support for the sheik.
When Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the original charges in 2002, he called it the first use of a rule allowing the Bureau of Prisons to monitor conversations between lawyers and inmates who are threats to commit future acts of violence or terrorism. The judge who dismissed the charges in July found them to be constitutionally vague.
The new charges are based on a different legal foundation and should not face the same constitutional concerns as the original charges, according to a statement issued by James B. Comey, the United States attorney in Manhattan.
If convicted, Ms. Stewart and Mr. Yousry could each face 5 to 15 years in prison.
Mr. Ashcroft said in a statement, The governments decision to bring additional charges against the defendants in this case is justified by the evidence we obtained during our investigation, and reflects the seriousness of the conduct allegedly engaged in by the defendants.
In a telephone interview, Ms. Stewart said she was perturbed.
Im just as emphatically not guilty as I was a year and a half ago, she said. Were going to keep on keeping on.
She said the filing of new charges seems like a pretty vindictive act on the part of the government.
The government claims that during a prison visit in May 2000, Mr. Abdel Rahman dictated letters to Mr. Yousry that gave instructions intended for a terrorist group while Ms. Stewart distracted the guards. At one point, according to prosecutors, Stewart and Yousry explicitly discussed the fact that the guards were patrolling close to the prison conference room and might notice that Stewart was not involved in the conversation between Yousry and Abdel Rahman. Ms. Stewart pretended to be part of the conversation by making extraneous comments such as chocolate and heart attack, the prosecutors said.
New York Times, November 20, 2003