On Thursday, July 15 a New York judge sentenced attorney Lynne Stewart to a much harsher punishment than the one originally given her in 2006. Stewart was convicted of aiding her client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, in contacting his organization, Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, and willingly and knowingly supporting the cleric's "efforts to continue to lead the Islamic Group from his jail cell."
Judge John Koeltl sentenced Stewart to 10 years in prison, according to Reuters. He noted that while the original sentence of 28 months was "not trivial," Stewart's lack of remorse and the illegal and potentially deadly character of her actions played a part in her sentencing. Lynne Stewart was convicted in 2005 and disbarred in 2006.
Prosecutors asked the court to consider various factors in resentencing Stewart. The government lawyers argued the terrorism-related aspect of Stewart's actions, the comments she made following the sentencing, that she may have lied and that she took advantage of her position, should all be factors in applying a longer sentence. Prosecutors sought 15-30 years.
In fact, according to Reuters, a varied picture of Stewart was painted in court. On the prosecutorial side, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dember told the judge "she's just frankly, your honor, another criminal who refuses to accept responsibility for what she did." Reportedly, after the October 2006 sentencing, Stewart said she could serve the time "standing on my head." In court on Thursday, she said she regretted those remarks.
In opposition, Judge Koeltl considered other factors of Stewart's life. The judge noted Stewart's age, 70, her fight with breast cancer and the unlikelihood of her repeating her actions. He pointed to her commitment to serving poor and unpopular clients.
When the judged announced the 10 year sentence, some in the courtroom cried. Stewart told the court she was "somewhat stunned."
- NY lawyer in terrorism case gets 10 year sentence (Reuters)
- Egyptian militant's US lawyer sentenced to 10 year term (AFP)
- Federal Sentencing Guidelines: Should They Be Abolished? (FindLaw's KnowledgeBase)
- U.S. Sentencing Commission (FindLaw's LawBrain)