Defender Lynne Stewart Gets 28 Months

Update: Lynne Stewart got 28 months, not 30 years. Huge defeat for the Government. Congrats to Lynne. Now she won't die in prison.

Original Post:

New York criminal defense lawyer Lynne Stewart faces sentencing today on her conviction for providing material support for terrorists by passing along messages from her imprisoned client, the blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. The Government is asking for 30 years for the 67 year old lawyer who suffers from breast cancer and other ailments.

A psychiatric report submitted to the federal judge in Manhattan who will decide the sentence, John Koeltl, claims that several emotional events in Stewart's life suggest her actions were motivated by "human factors of her client and his situation" and not by politics, according to portions of the psychiatric report.

The psychiatrist, Steven Teich, points to 11 emotional events that he claims prompted her to want to take action on Abdel Rahman's behalf, Stewart's attorneys say. Among the events that make Dr.Teich's list are her experiences seeing Abdel Rahman incarcerated and the 1995 suicide of a drug defendant named Dominick Maldonado, whom Stewart had once represented.

The psych report is sealed, but here are some more details:

"Ms. Stewart's commitment to the protection of her client, the Sheik, in prison was magnified by emotions from her perceived failure to protect her former client Mr. Maldonado, which had, consequently, resulted in his death by suicide," Mr. Teich wrote.

Stewart's behavior was "emotionally based and sometimes impulsive" and her mental state while representing Abdel Rahman "immobilized her critical ability to evaluate the potential consequences of her actions," according to the psychiatric report.

Up until sentencing, Stewart maintained she did nothing wrong. That has changed, now that she is facing such a draconian sentence. In her letter to the court, she said:

Finally, and this was fully revealed to me in my discussions post-trial with Dr. Teich, if I have a tragic flaw it is that I care too much for my clients," Stewart wrote."I am soft-hearted to the point of self-abnegation. When one reaches out to another human being, even a hated and despised defendant, the client is grateful, the lawyer is fulfilled and an emotional mutuality arises."

The article notes:

Since the charges against Stewart were first announced in 2002, they have sparked a debate in op-ed pages and law reviews. Some argued that the case represented an erosion of the attorney-client privilege. Other attorneys said Stewart's behavior had crossed clearly over into the criminal.

Count me among the former group who believe this case defines the erosion of the attorney-client privilege. Taping lawyers talking to their clients in jail should not be allowed, and it wasn't, until John Ashcroft came along (pdf).

Update: All of TalkLeft's coverage of Lynne Stewart's case is accessible here.

The translator, Mohamad Yousry, only got a 20 month sentence. Yousry's case is also a sad one. The third codefendant, Sattar, got 24 years.

Stewart will remain on bond pending her appeal of the conviction.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Stewart (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by hgardner on Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 02:49:05 PM EST
    assuming Lynn had no criminal history, the government had to calculate the Offense Level at 42.  Strong stuff.  Once gain let us say a little prayer of thanks for Booker.

    Are we safer yet? (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by Mreddieb on Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 03:12:47 PM EST
    I guess we can all breath easier another breast cancer liberal lawyer is going to jail! Go Justice! Oh I forgot, where's Osama?

    Re: Defender Lynne Stewart Gets 28 Months (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by baked potato on Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 07:03:47 PM EST
    Of course the "crime" here had nothing to do with providing any actual assistance to terrorism but rather with aggressively defending a client.  

    Just a little preemptive and gratituitous "chilling effect" to any attorney who in the future might be tempted to vigorously defend a client whom the government doesn't like.

    Re: Defender Lynne Stewart (none / 0) (#8)
    by Gabriel Malor on Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 11:47:10 PM EST
    Whatever you think about the sentance, it is untrue that the crime was about defending her client.

    Stewart made an agreement with the DOJ that she would not pass information, or allow information to be passed, from her client to his terrorist group in Egypt. She violated that agreement when she made a press release which indicated to his terrorist group that they could resume attacks on Egypt. Those attacks, which would not have occurred if she had not passed on the message from her client, resulted in hundreds of lives lost.

    That is her crime. And while it is true to say that attorney-client meetings in custodial settings are generally privileged, the crime-fraud exception is applied where the communications are used to commit a crime. That is why the recorded meetings were admitted to evidence.

    The troubling part about this case is that the meetings were recorded before the crime was discovered. That's what TL and various other commentators are talking about when they mention a "chilling effect" on defense attorneys.

    But to say that there was no crime here, is patently (and, following the verdict) conclusively incorrect.


    Re: Defender Lynne Stewart Gets 28 Months (5.00 / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 08:21:45 AM EST
    demo....Stewart is (er was) a free American with a right to her opinions.  If you want to jail her for her opinions...you are the traitor my friend.

    If Stewart aided a terror suspect in an attack on America, she deserves jail.  If she merely vigororously defended her client, she deserves praise.

    I don't put it past my govt. to trump up some charges to discourage defense attorneys from doing their constitutionally mandated jobs.  They haven't shown much faith in the constitution lately, and I view them as a greater threat to the constitution, and the republic, than any terrorist.  We gotta watch 'em like hawks.

    Stewart sentencing (4.00 / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 01:54:09 PM EST
    This is a case which should never have been brought.

    At least the Judge had a clue and minimized the sentence - one wonders what the guidelines calculations were.

    Sentencing (none / 0) (#1)
    by jazzcattg1 on Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 10:43:02 AM EST
    Of course, Bob Ney is allowed to remain in his leadership positions until his sentencing-I'm afraid you are right that rights are eroded under this cabal - Loss or erosion of Attorney/Client, Habeus Corus etc. are a frightening reality here in 1984, er 2006

    Did or did not (none / 0) (#5)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 06:06:08 PM EST
    From the post:

    What's particularly chilling about the Lynne Stewart case is that the Government's evidence is based on attorney-client communications taped by the Government, pursuant to guidelines issued by Ashcroft.

    This one bothers me. She either helped him, or she did not. If she did, then jail is where she should be. If she did not, she shouldn't.

    It appears that she did, and it appears that the judge cut her a lot of slack based on her problems.

    Re: Defender Lynne Stewart Gets 28 Months (none / 0) (#7)
    by demohypocrates on Mon Oct 16, 2006 at 10:48:48 PM EST
    "To rid ourselves of the entrenched, voracious type of capitalism that is in this country that perpetuates sexism and racism, I don't think that can come nonviolently."

    "I don't believe in anarchistic violence, but in directed violence. That would be violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism, and sexism, and the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions, and accompanied by popular support."

    "I don't have any problem with Mao or Stalin or the Vietnamese leaders or certainly Fidel locking up people they see as dangerous. Because so often, dissidence has been used by the greater powers to undermine a people's revolution."

    "The September 11 terrorist attacks on America were an "armed struggle" like Hiroshima and Dresden. I have a lot of trouble figuring out why that is wrong, especially when people are placed in a position of having no other way."

    These are the words of Stewart.  If these words of Stewart make her a liberal, then I have no problem calling a 'liberal' a traitor.  All TL readers that defend her words are traitors.  Thank you for the clarification.

    Drop the 'liberal' moniker.  If you defend her, you really push the word patriotism...  Defending America haters is the same as being an America hater. (and I dont mean that for attorneys defending the accused.)

    Re: Defender Lynne Stewart Gets 28 Months (none / 0) (#9)
    by kentdj23 on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 01:27:48 AM EST
    I think it's important that we recognize the man she is passing messages for was a REAL terrorist, and a REAL threat to America. I'm a liberal guy and this is my first post here, so I hope you don't take it for trolling, because it's not, but I think it's important to recognize that Lynne Stewart did put our country in danger by passing messages to the Sheiks followers. While I think our current War on Terror is a joke, I do think that those who are truely interested in and those who enable hurting our great country are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That is, the law before George Bush re-wrote it and declared himself King.

    I don't know the details beyond what is posted here, but I have no sympathy for anyone who enables someone that wants to hurt America. (Disclaimer - that doesn't mean I think they should be tortured and locked up without trial, but I think if found guilty by their peers, it's equatable to treason.)

    Am I being unreasonable?

    Re: Defender Lynne Stewart Gets 28 Months (none / 0) (#11)
    by ltgesq on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 01:04:18 PM EST
    The fact is, the justice department placed restraints on her communications that rendered it very difficult to defend the case, or him, but she agreed to those  The message she transmitted on his behalf was that his supporters should respect the cease in hostilities in egypt.

    The issue that we as defense lawyers have a real problem with is that the bureau of Prisons under ashcroft started taping the conversations of defense lawyers and their clients.   This undertaking was done not in specific cases where they had evidence the lawyer was breaking the law, but accross the board and without regard to the 6th amendment rights the accused has to consult with a lawyer.

    Unfortunately, we don't get to pick our poster child on every issue.  And Lynn was the kind of person whose prior statements on a number of hot button issues really split the support she might have had, had she been less controversial in her public statements.

    Re: Defender Lynne Stewart Gets 28 Months (none / 0) (#12)
    by Gabriel Malor on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 02:11:12 PM EST
    The message she transmitted on his behalf was that his supporters should respect the cease in hostilities in egypt.

    That is not the case. She phoned a Reuters reporter in Egypt and told him that her client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, was "withdrawing his support for the cease-fire that currently exists."

    See here in the NYTimes archive for the article on the reporter's testimony.

    Here are the relevant excerpts:

    An Egyptian reporter for the Reuters news agency testified under government subpoena yesterday in federal court that Lynne F. Stewart, a lawyer accused of aiding terrorism, called him four years ago to publicize a statement from a client convicted of terrorism, at a time when she was under orders not to do so.

    On the stand, Mr. Salaheddin confirmed that he had written the article, in which Ms. Stewart said the sheik was "withdrawing his support for the cease-fire that currently exists." ... In the article, Mr. Salaheddin reported that Ms. Stewart told him that the sheik had issued the statement "two weeks ago from his jail cell," but that she and other lawyers on his team had held it "while considering how best to release it."

    Re: Defender Lynne Stewart Gets 28 Months (none / 0) (#13)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Oct 17, 2006 at 05:41:10 PM EST
    Ltgesq writes:

    Unfortunately, we don't get to pick our poster child on every issue

    So, why did the Demo Left ignore the internet gambling bill?

    And the answer is: It was not politically correct to oppose it.

    So much for princple, eh??

    kentdj23 - Nope. I think you have it dead on.

    Gabe - Nice.

    Ltgesq - Have you been caught in a very large error??