Blind Sheik's Lawyer Gets 28 Months in Jail


Lynne Stewart, the 67-year-old rights lawyer who spent a lifetime helping unpopular defendants and political causes, was sentenced Monday to 28 months in prison for helping an imprisoned Egyptian sheik unlawfully communicate with followers.

Stewart, who lost her law license after her 2005 conviction in the case, was facing up to 30 years in prison but caught a break from U.S. District Court Judge John Koeltl. He cited her years of advocacy for the poor and downtrodden as a reason for a lenient term behind bars.

Full Chicago Tribune story here.

In 2004, Jarrett Decker wrote about the case for Reason. A snippet:

Lynne Stewart makes an implausible civil liberties heroine. She has expressed admiration for Abdel Rahman's decidedly illiberal vision of "positive social change," arguing that the radical Islamic revolution he seeks is "the only hope" for various oppressed peoples in the Middle East. She maintains that American criticism of the Taliban's treatment of women is a case of "the pot calling the kettle black" because of supposedly comparable discrimination against women here….

Yet Stewart's prosecution has revealed a broad and troubling Justice Department strategy. This strategy goes far beyond the need to make sure lawyers abide by restrictions on prisoner communications — restrictions motivated by the legitimate security concerns that cases like this raise. For that purpose, it would be sufficient to criminalize attorney violations of the restrictions known as "special administrative measures" (SAMs), which have been used since the Clinton administration to prevent Abdel Rahman and other imprisoned terrorists from communicating (directly or indirectly) with their supporters on the outside. Instead, the Justice Department is pursuing a course that threatens the Sixth Amendment right to legal representation by exposing just about any attorney who represents a suspected terrorist to the risk of prosecution, thereby discouraging lawyers from taking such cases or, if they do, from representing their clients zealously.

Whole story here.