by Jeff Mackler / July 2006 issue of Socialist Action newspaper
The U.S. Probation Department filed a report in late June for Federal District Court Judge John G. Koeltl recommending that attorney Lynne Stewart, 67, be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Stewart was the victim of a government frame-up when she was convicted in February 2005 of conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism. The spurious charges stemmed from her work as chief counsel for the blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman, an Egyptian cleric convicted on conspiracy charges a decade earlier, who asked Steward to release a press statement expressing his views on the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarack.
The government’s report states, “We hope that this sentence of 30 years will not only punish Stewart for her actions but serve as a deterrent for other lawyers who believe that they are above the rules and regulations of penal institutions or otherwise try to skirt the laws of this country.”
Despite over 80,000 wiretaps against Stewart, the government was unable to produce a single piece of evidence indicating her involvement with any terrorist group or individual.
Stewart is being punished essentially for a single act, the public release of a press statement, a commonplace among lawyers who fight for the democratic and constitutional rights of their clients. Elizabeth Fink, Stewart’s attorney for the sentencing aspect of the case, called the 30-year recommendation “draconian, inhumane, and ludicrous.” “The deterrence they want to accomplish here,” said Fink, “is to frighten lawyers into submission and destroy zealous advocacy.”
Fink filed papers urging Judge Koeltl to sentence Stewart, currently undergoing breast cancer treatment, to zero prison time and probation. Koeltl will rule on Sept. 25 and decide whether to grant Stewart bail pending her appeal.