BY JEFF MACKLER
When I visited Lynne Stewart last month at FMC Cars-well in Fort Worth, Texas, she wondered in a dark moment whether the cynicism of the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) might descend to such depths as to deny her the then expected compassionate release.
It crossed her mind that those agencies might cite as grounds for denial the fact that her initial rounds of chemotherapy had slightly reduced in size some of the malignant tumors in her lymph nodes, sternum, and back—although they had left unaffected the most threatening of her Stage Four breast cancer tumors in her lungs.
At that moment Lynne had good reason to expect that her release was imminent. The FMC warden had recommended it, and New York-based probationary officials had inspected and approved an appropriate Brooklyn family residence where she would reside during treatment and for permanent proper care. Lynne even pointed to statements from her Fort Worth hospital oncologist to the effect that it was likely that they would not see each other again, implying that she too recognized that Lynne’s only serious hope for life was to be rapidly transferred to the world-renowned Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
On June 25 Lynne’s most feared outcome was confirmed in a three-paragraph letter from BOP General Counsel Kathleen M. Kennedy in Washington, D.C. Kennedy denied Lynne’s request because Lynne’s “health is improving” and her situation is “not extraordinary and compelling.”
Lynne’s response, “Disappointed but not devastated” (on this page), indicates that her legal team intends to appeal this decision to Judge John Koeltl, the judge who initially sentenced her to 28 months in prison but who later acceded to political pressure, ordered a new sentencing hearing, and condemned Lynne to 10 years at FMC Carswell.
Stewart’s case is the first in many years to expose yet another blatant government violation of U.S. law, this one mandating compassionate release in specified circumstances that particularly apply to Lynne. Indeed, this 1984 law has been virtually ignored, according to the government’s own study, with barely a dozen people being granted compassionate release yearly out of hundreds of thousands of federal prisoners over the past 30 years.
The scientific community considers Stage Four breast cancer to be incurable. But many prominent institutions have noted that with excellent medical care and high patient motivation, life can be extended in some circumstances for several years. But the Fort Worth medical facility that FMC Carswell uses and the conditions under which Lynne is permitted to receive treatment are far from “excellent.” She is shackled hand and foot and around her belly while traveling to and from this facility. The results of her treatments are routinely withheld for months while necessary follow-up treatments are delayed, as was the case when cancer that was first discovered in one lung had metastasized to the other and beyond.
Yet the most optimistic prospects for Lynne to live a few more years, provided that she receives “excellent” treatment, are used to reject her request! In the BOP’s view, Lynne must not only be dying but virtually near death to qualify for compassionate release. The fight for her release now, Lynne repeatedly states, is a matter of life and death.
Lynne’s request is pending that the U.S. Supreme Court hear her appeal of the frame-up terrorist conspiracy charges against her as a result of being the lead counsel in the internationally watched case of the “blind sheik,” Omar Abdel Rachman. The appeal could be decided soon. If the hateful authorities at the BOP continue to reject her compassionate-release request, she could well be found innocent yet be too close to death to experience but a few weeks or months as a vindicated and free woman.
There is no time to delay! Join the fight for Lynne’s life and freedom now. Call today:
• US Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels: 202-307-3198-ext. 3
• US Attorney General Eric Holder: 202-514-2001
• President Barack Obama: 202-456-1111
Jeff Mackler is head of the West Coast branch of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.
Photo: Tony Savino / Socialist Action
Lynne Stewart: Disappointed But Not Devastated
My Dear Friends, Supporters, Comrades:
I know we are all disappointed to the marrow of our bones and the depths of our hearts by the news that the Bureaucrats, Kafka like, have turned down my request for compassionate release.
Let me say, that we are planning ahead. The letter from the BOP (soon to be posted on the website, LynneStewart.org) is flawed, to put it mildly. Both factually and medically it has major problems. We intend to go to court and raise these in front of my sentencing Judge Koeltl. At the first sentencing he responded to a query by one of the lawyers that he didn’t want me to die in prison—we’ll see if he can now live up to that. He is of course the same Judge who increased my sentence to 10 years—but this IS very different and we can only hope that we can prevail. Stay tuned for what we need from you. We will never give up.
In the meantime, once again, I grieve for my children and grandchildren, who love me so much and had such great expectations of enjoying life together again in our beloved NYC and not just trying to, in the prison visiting room. My Ralph, too, whose dedication and love are only exceeded by the work he does on my behalf—but he is a born fighter and although he hurts, it all comes more naturally to him.
But for everyone else, I hope that your affront at this crass bureaucratic denial of the request which you by your signatures and letters and phone calls demanded — How far can we let this go? when a 73-year old woman who IS dying of cancer (maybe not on their timetable,) her life of good works ignored, be shunted aside … “she does not present circumstances considered extraordinary and compelling … at this time.” We must show them that I cannot be ignored, that YOU cannot be ignored.”
Fight On — All of Us or None of Us. An affront to one is an affront to all.