July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Lynne F. Stewart, the lawyer convicted in 2005 of helping an extremist cleric pass messages from prison to his terrorist followers, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, compared with a 28-month term imposed earlier.
U.S. District Judge John Koeltl sentenced Stewart, 70, today in New York. A federal appeals court in November ruled that his first sentence didn’t reflect the seriousness of her actions.
The judge said his sentence was “sufficient but not greater than necessary” to punish Stewart, who “abused her position as a lawyer” and said she would do it again. Making such statements showed a lack of remorse, he said.
“It also indicates the original sentence was not adequate,” he said.
The lawyer was convicted by a jury in 2005 of helping her former client, the blind Egyptian sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, smuggle messages to followers in defiance of so-called prison special administrative measures imposed on him.
The appeals court said Koeltl gave too much weight to her personal qualities “in light of the gravity of her crimes.”
The government urged a term of 15 to 30 years, citing “the deadly serious nature of her terrorist crimes of conviction.”
“Stewart has made it clear that if given the opportunity to engage in the unlawful conduct for which she now stands convicted she would do it again,” the government said in court papers, citing statements she made after being convicted.
28 Months ‘Reasonable’
Her lawyers argued that the first term was appropriate.
“Ms. Stewart’s 28-month sentence is reasonable, especially when viewed alongside sentences in other terrorism prosecutions, including those where the defendants joined terrorist groups and clearly intended that harm would result from their actions,” her lawyers Elizabeth M. Fink and Jill R. Shellow-Lavine, wrote.
Koeltl, who presided over the nine-month trial, was in the best position to know the appropriate term to impose, the attorneys argued. Longer terms in other terrorism cases cited by an appeals court judge were for crimes which occurred after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, they said.
Defense lawyers argued she hadn’t committed perjury during the trial and that she didn’t know the true terrorist nature of Rahman’s followers.
“I did not commit perjury” as prosecutors argued in court papers, Stewart told the judge today. “I did not attempt to obstruct justice. I spoke only the truth as I knew it.”
Government ArgumentsThe government cited Stewart’s statements after the appeals court’s decision.
“I’d like to think I would not do anything differently,” prosecutors quoted her as saying in a Nov. 18 interview. “I think it was necessary. I would do it again. I might handle it a little differently, but I would do it again.”
Stewart today discussed her post-sentence remark that she would serve her term “standing on my head.”
“I have learned that no one, particularly this 70-year-old woman, can do 28 months standing on my head,” she said. “Prison has diminished me.”
She asked the judge for the same sentence as before.
“Twenty-eight months set a horizon on a journey I thought I could complete,” she told the judge. “I could see where I was going and I could see an event I could anticipate. With 28 months, I will live through this. Not standing on my head. That I know for sure. Just surviving.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dember said that as Rahman’s former trial lawyer, Stewart knew “these people meant business.”
“She knew what he was convicted of,” Dember told Koeltl. “She knew about his participation in a plot to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. She sat through weeks of testimony in that case. She knew what they were capable of.”
Stewart as an attorney defended Rahman, the Islamic Group’s spiritual leader, against charges that he plotted to blow up the United Nations, an FBI building, two tunnels and a bridge in New York. He was convicted in 1995 and is serving a life sentence in a high-security prison, where Stewart had meetings with him.
Prosecutors provided evidence during Stewart’s trial that she had four prison visits with the cleric in which she smuggled messages from 1997 to 2001.
Rahman relied upon Stewart and co-defendants to send a message withdrawing his support for the group’s cease-fire with the Egyptian government, U.S. authorities contended.
The organization suspended its violent activities after a 1997 attack that left 62 people dead at a temple in Luxor, Egypt, prosecutors said. Testimony showed the Islamic Group later demanded the cleric’s release from a U.S. prison U.S. and planned an attack in Egypt that was thwarted in 2000.
The case is U.S. v. Stewart, 06-5015-cr, U.S. Court of Appeals.
--With assistance from Bob Van Voris and David Glovin in NewYork. Editors: Charles Carter, John Pickering.
To contact the reporter on this story: Patricia Hurtado in New York federal court at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at email@example.com.