by Jeff Mackler
The full force of the U.S. criminal “justice” system is today aimed at innocent political prisoner, 30-year human rights attorney and radical political activist Lynne Stewart. On July 15 Federal District Court John Koeltl, who in 2005 sentenced Stewart to 28 months in prison following her frame-up trial and jury conviction on four counts of “conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism, is set to reconsider his sentence.
Koeltl was ordered to do so when his relatively short sentence was vacated by a two-judge majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judges Robert D. Sack and Guido Calabresi ruled that Koeltl’s sentence was flawed because he had declined to determine whether Stewart committed perjury when she testified at her trial that she believed that she was effectively operating under a “bubble” protecting her from prosecution when she issued a press release on behalf of her client, the blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman.
Dissenting Judge John M. Walker, who called Stewart’s sentence, “breathtakingly low” in view of Stewart’s “extraordinarily severe criminal conduct” deemed the Second Circuit’s majority opinion “substantively unreasonable.” Walker essentially sought to impose a 30-year sentence on Stewart.
The three-judge panel on Dec. 20 followed its initial ruling with even tougher language demanding that Koeltl revisit his treatment of the “terrorism enhancement” aspects of the law.
This was followed by yet a third Second Circuit effort, this one to call an en banc hearing to throw the book at Stewart in a manner that essentially turned any remand to Koeltl, who retains discretion in his sentencing under an important U.S. Supreme Court ruling several years ago, into a virtual order for an extended sentence.
While the en banc effort failed by a vote of 7-4, some judges used the occasion to argue for qualitatively more prison time.
Government prosecutors, who in 2005 sought a 30-year sentence, have submitted a 155-page memorandum arguing in support of their original demand, a document that demonstrates how twisted logic coupled with vindictive and lying government officials routinely turn the victim into the criminal.
Stewart’s attorneys, Liz Fink and Jill Shellow countered with a full rendition of the facts of the case amply demonstrating that Stewart’s actions in defense of her client were well within the realm of past practice and accepted procedures. They argued that Koeltl properly exercised his discretion in determining that, while the terrorism enhancement provisions of the “law” had to be taken into consideration, the 30-year-prison term associated with it was “dramatically unreasonable” and “overstated the seriousness” of Stewart’s conduct.
Fink and Shellow argued convincingly that the Special Administrative Measure (SAM) that Stewart was convicted of violating by releasing a statement from her client to the media was well within the established practice of Stewart’s experienced and mentoring co-counsels– former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and past American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee president Abdeen Jabarra. Both had issued similar statements to the press with no government reprisal.
As worst in such matters, government officials refuse defense attorney visiting rights with their clients until an agreement on the meaning of a SAM is reached. Indeed, in Stewart’s case when the matter was brought to then Attorney General Janet Reno, the government declined to prosecute or otherwise take any action against Stewart.
But in the post-911 generated climate of political hysteria five years later, Bush appointee, Attorney General John Ashcroft, decided to make an example of Stewart, an example aimed at warning future attorney’s that the mere act of defending anyone whom the government charged with “conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism,” could trigger grave consequences.
On July 15 Judge Koelt will make the decision of his lifetime. Known for his meticulous preparation in such matters, and already having enraged the powers that be with his “light” sentence of Stewart, he will either bend to the heavy political pressure exerted on him from several quarters or reaffirm his original opinion. Should he do so Stewart, 70, and in poor health, can be expected to leave prison in less than two years, recover, and lead a productive life. An extended sentence would likely lead to her demise behind bars – a brilliant and dedicated fighter sacrificed on the alter of capitalist vengeance.
Courage is a rare quality in the capitalist judiciary. For every defiant decision made, usually driven by a change in the political atmosphere stemming from the emergence of mass social protest movements, there are thousands that affirm the status quo, including its punishment of all who dissent from capitalist prerogatives and power.
Lynne Stewart stands tall among them. We can only hope that the winds of change that are stirring the consciousness of millions today in the context of an American capitalism in economic and moral crisis catches Koeltl’s attention and assists in his doing the right thing.
JOIN US to Support Lynne Stewart
Save these Dates !!!!
July 8, 2010 – 6pm – 10pm
Voicing Support for Lynne will be :
Fred Hampton Jr.
and many more !!!!!!!
Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square So.
NY, NY 10012
This is a fundraiser, suggested donation is $20.00
July 14, 2010
5:30pm March from Tom Paine Park (Worth St. between Centre & Lafayette Streets)
3 blocks to Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC- where Lynne is detained)
7-9pm Vigil in Support of Lynne at Metropolitan Correctional Center 150 Park Row, NY NY
July 15, 2010 : SENTENCING DAY
Sentencing is at 2:30pm, we will be there at 11am
500 Pearl Street
Doors will open at 2pm
LET’S PACK THE COURT!!!
Write to LYNNE STEWART at:
Lynne Stewart 53504-054
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007