A Good Lawyer Who Did a Bad Thing Gets a Break

Turns out that Monday, October 16 is Lynne Stewart's lucky day. The 67-year-old civil rights attorney and activist today recieved a 28-month prison sentence from a federal trial judge for providing material support to terrorist after she passed along information from a jailed client to his followers. She could have received 30 years, which given her recent cancer would have effectively become a life sentence.

Even her most ardent fans, and she has plenty both within and without the legal community, must concede now that Stewart did cross a line when she carried messages from Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheik involved in the first attack upon the World Trade Center, to his minions around the world. Why she did it we may never know fully. That in the end she was mortified by her transgression is fairly clear from her letter to her sentencing judge.

Clearly, the judge cut Stewart a break because of her age, her health, her expression of remorse and regret, her long history of dedicated work as a defense attorney, which has to have counted for something, and because no one was harmed by her conduct. But she's lucky to get such a short sentence and she knows it and hopefully now and for the rest of her life she can rededicate herself to the things she did so well for so many decades in the law-- helping those without help.

By Andrew Cohen |  October 16, 2006; 4:45 PM ET
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I think putting together the true story from the NY Times, CBS New Online and New York magazine against Andrew's complete mischaracterization of this outcome is better. And by the way, I do not believe prison causes breast cancer or its recurrance, and when someone is nearing 70, a thirty year sentence is akin to death. We have done it in the case of corporate executives (Bernie Ebbers), renegade lawyers deserrve the same.

ANDREW: "Clearly, the judge cut Stewart a break because of her age, her health, her expression of remorse and regret..."

THE FACTS: "I still believe it was justifiable -- but perhaps not in the way that I did it," Ms. Stewart said in an interview with The New York Times before her sentencing."...Ms. Stewart still denies that she acted to further any violent goals of the sheik. ..."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.". . . Ms. Stewart's lawyers said their client is newly remorseful about "ill-advised" moves on behalf of the sheik.


ANDREW: "Why she did it we may never know fully. That in the end she was mortified by her transgression is fairly clear from her letter to her sentencing judge."

THE FACTS: "Ms. Stewart admitted in the interview with The Times that she became too close to the sheik, insisting it was because of his deteriorating health and sanity after years in solitary confinement {he was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted in plots to blow up five New York landmarks and assassinate Egypt's president], not any affinity with his Islamic fundamentalism..."I ignored any warning signs," Ms. Stewart said. "I led with my heart instead of my head and thought it would be all right."

ANDREW: "But she's lucky to get such a short sentence and she knows it..."

THE FACTS: After the hearing, a beaming Ms. Stewart spoke outside the courtroom, where dozens of her supporters and reporters had been waiting for her.
"This is a great victory against an over-reaching government,...He [the judge] did a fair and right thing," Stewart said.

ANDREW: "Even her most ardent fans, and she has plenty both within and without the legal community, must concede now that Stewart did cross a line..."

THE FACTS: "Free Lynne! Free Lynne!" shouted at least 100 of her supporters massed outside the courtroom, some of them raising their fists in a Black Power salute, others singing from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." . . . .
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's not just Lynne Stewart who is a victim, it's the Bill of Rights that's the victim," said Al Dorfman, 72, a retired lawyer who was among the Stewart supporters standing outside.
Ms. Stewart will be released on bail, pending an appeal that her lawyers are expected to file on her behalf. . . .

FOR THE RECORD...
THE TRANSGRESSION / MESSAGE WAS: releasing the sheik's statement, which said he no longer supported a cease-fire by his followers in Egypt.

ACCORDING TO THE JUDGE...There was "no evidence that any victim was in fact harmed" by her actions....

Posted by: You judge. | October 16, 2006 11:56 PM

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