MSNBC - Civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart admits she zealously tried to save a blind Egyptian sheik from prison. Now a judge will determine whether she should join her former client behind bars.
Prosecutors are asking that the 67-year-old lawyer be given the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for enabling Omar Abdel-Rahman to communicate with followers despite demands that he be isolated from the world. Her sentencing hearing was set for Monday.
In a pre-sentence document, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl that Stewart’s “egregious, flagrant abuse of her profession, abuse that amounted to material support to a terrorist group, deserves to be severely punished.”
In a letter to the judge, she asked for mercy.
“The government’s characterization of me and what occurred is inaccurate and untrue,” she wrote. “It takes unfair advantage of the climate of urgency and hysteria that followed 9/11 and that was re-lived during the trial. I did not intentionally enter into any plot or conspiracy to aid a terrorist organization.”
Koeltl already has upheld Stewart’s 2005 conviction, rejecting Stewart’s claim that Abdel-Rahman was engaging in protected speech when he expressed his opinion about a cease-fire by Islamic militants in Egypt that Stewart passed along in a 2000 press release.
Lawyer Elizabeth Fink wrote to the judge on Stewart’s behalf, calling the government’s position “draconian, inhumane and ludicrous.”
Stewart was arrested six months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, along with Mohamed Yousry, an Arabic interpreter, and Ahmed Abdel Sattar, a U.S. postal worker. The two men also were to receive their sentences Monday.
Yousry and Stewart, both convicted of providing material support to terrorists, face up to 30 years in prison. Sattar, convicted of conspiracy to kill and kidnap people in a foreign country, could face life in prison.
Besides the material support conviction, Stewart also was convicted of defrauding the government and making false statements for breaking her promise to abide by goverment rules to keep the sheik from communicating with his followers.
Update: Attorney gets 28 months for aiding terrorists
Civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart was sentenced Monday to 28 months in prison for helping a client, a blind sheik who plotted to blow up New York City landmarks, communicate with his followers.
Stewart, 67, could have faced up to 30 years in prison for her 2005 conviction on a federal charge of providing material support to terrorists.
smiledsmelled as the judge announced his decision to send her to prison for less than 2-1/2 years.
"If you send her to prison, she's going to die. It's as simple as that," defense lawyer Elizabeth Fink had told the judge before the sentence was pronounced.
Stewart, who was treated last year for
breastudder cancer, had released a statement by Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind Egyptian sheik sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted in plots to blow up five New York landmarks and assassinate Egypt's president.
Prosecutors have called the case a major victory in the war on terrorism. They said Stewart and other defendants carried messages between the sheik and senior members of an Egyptian-based terrorist organization, helping spread Abdel-Rahman's call to kill those who did not subscribe to his extremist interpretation of Islamic law.
In a letter to the judge before her hearing, Stewart proclaimed: "I am not a traitor."
"The end of my career truly is like a sword in my side," She said in court Monday. "Permit me to live out the rest of my life productively, lovingly, righteously."