Behind Bars

Lynne Stewart Appeals Draconian Sentence

By Carole Seligman

Lynne Stewart, the courageous attorney wrongly convicted on charges of aiding terrorism because of her legal defense, beginning in 1994, of Dr. Omar Abdel Rahman (the blind Sheikh), submitted an appeal of her huge sentence to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on March 30th. Stewart, now incarcerated in the Federal Medical Center prison in Forth Worth, Texas, was accused and convicted of terrorist conspiracy based upon a public press release to Reuters from her client, commenting on the long standing struggle in Egypt against the dictator Hosni Mubarak. She is now appealing her conviction.

Stewart, during her work as one of his attorneys, “became convinced that [the blind Sheikh] was being prosecuted for his ideas and words rather than any actions,” (quote from brief, page 15,) and presented a vigorous defense.

On April 8, 2002, Stewart was arrested and charged with “providing material support to a terrorist organization,... and conspiracy to commit the same.” Stewart was convicted on all counts and sentenced by Judge Koeltl to a two year, four month sentence, continuing her release on bail pending appeal. The court upheld the conviction on the first appeal, but remanded the case back to Judge Koeltl for resentencing. In July 2010, Judge Koeltl increased the 28-month sentence to a ten-year sentence! Lynne Stewart is 71 years old.

Judge John Koeltl’s new, draconian sentence came after he was reprimanded by the judges of her panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The same panel (Judges Walker, Calabrese and Simon) will hear this case in the fall of this year. Stewart had previously been convicted in 2005 along with two men of Egyptian origin, Ahmed Abdel-Sattar, and Mohammed Yousry.

The main points made in the appeal brief, are:

1. In relying on Lynne Stewart’s public statements to enhance the original sentence of 28 months, her First Amendment rights were abridged.

2. 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.

3. The Judge’s findings of Perjury and Misuse of her position as an Attorney were in error.

In the appeal, Stewart asks for a reversal and remand. Her team of lawyers are Jill Shellow, Robert Boyle, and Herald Price Fahringer, of New York. Many lawyers and other supporters also helped in the preparation of the appeal document which can be read in its entirety on the website

The appeal is a concise argument against the ten-year sentence, which, for an older person, constitutes a life sentence. It explains in detail the errors made by the Judge and the Circuit Court panel with detailed citations of the legal precedents these judges ignored in succumbing to the shrill argumentation of government prosecutors seeking to tarnish the defense bar with the taint of “terrorism” in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York. It also details the lengthy and illustrious career Lynne Stewart has made defending unpopular and poor clients, the very essence of a people’s lawyer. It is a ringing and insightful defense of the right of free speech as well as the right of the accused to legal representation. The appeal shows how a victory for Lynne Stewart will be one for all who fight for social justice, and all who may face charges of breaking the law.

You can write to Lynne Stewart # 53504-054 at Federal Medical Center, Carswell, Unit 2N, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, Texas, 76127.