Lynne Stewart
Lynne Irene Stewart is a former attorney who represented controversial, poor, and often unpopular defendant
A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute...

s who was convicted on charges of conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists in 2005, and sentenced to 28 months in prison. Her felony
A felony is a serious crime in the common law countries. The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods; other crimes were called misdemeanors...

 conviction led to her being automatically disbarred
Disbarment is the removal of a lawyer from a bar association or the practice of law, thus revoking his or her law license or admission to practice law...

. She was convicted of helping pass messages from her client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman
Omar Abdel-Rahman
Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman , commonly known in the United States as "The Blind Sheikh", is a blind Egyptian Muslim leader who is currently serving a life sentence at the Butner Medical Center which is part of the Butner Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina, United...

, an Egyptian cleric convicted of planning terror attacks, to his followers in al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya
Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya
Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya is an Egyptian Islamist movement, and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Egyptian governments...

, an organization designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States Secretary of State.

She was re-sentenced on July 15, 2010, to 10 years in prison in light of her alleged perjury at her trial, and her lack of remorse after her initial sentencing. She is currently serving her sentence at FMC Carswell
Federal Medical Center, Carswell
The Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, is a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility that provides specialized medical and mental health services to female offenders. FMC Carswell is located in the northeast corner of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth . Its address is...

 in Ft Worth, Texas.

Early life and education

Stewart was born in Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

, New York, the daughter of parents of Swedish/German and English/Irish heritage. She grew up in Bellrose and Queens and went to school at Martin Van Buren High School. She was educated at Hope College
Hope College
Hope College is a medium-sized , private, residential liberal arts college located in downtown Holland, Michigan, a few miles from Lake Michigan. It was opened in 1851 as the Pioneer School by Dutch immigrants four years after the community was first settled...

, American University
American University
American University is a private, Methodist, liberal arts, and research university in Washington, D.C. The university was chartered by an Act of Congress on December 5, 1892 as "The American University", which was approved by President Benjamin Harrison on February 24, 1893...

, and graduated with a B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 in political science from Wagner College
Wagner College
Wagner College is a private, co-educational, national liberal arts college with an enrollment of approximately 2,400 total students located atop Grymes Hill in New York City's borough of Staten Island...

. She received a Masters in Library Science
Library science
Library science is an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary field that applies the practices, perspectives, and tools of management, information technology, education, and other areas to libraries; the collection, organization, preservation, and dissemination of information resources; and the...

 from Pratt Institute
Pratt Institute
Pratt Institute is a private art college in New York City located in Brooklyn, New York, with satellite campuses in Manhattan and Utica. Pratt is one of the leading undergraduate art schools in the United States and offers programs in Architecture, Graphic Design, History of Art and Design,...

, and a J.D.
Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor is a professional doctorate and first professional graduate degree in law.The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century and was created as a modern version of the old European doctor of law degree Juris Doctor (see etymology and...

 from Rutgers School of Law-Newark.

Stewart believes that violence is at times needed to correct for the perceived injustices of capitalism. She states that she doesn’t "believe in anarchistic violence but in directed violence", with directed violence being violence "That would be violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism and sexism, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions, and accompanied by popular support."

Legal career

Stewart was admitted to the NY State Bar on January 31, 1977 and for much of her career as a lawyer, Stewart has represented a number of economically disadvantaged clients as well as more high profile cases. Stewart is a self described "movement lawyer" who took a wider interest in promoting the general political interests of those she represented, rather than only dealing with the specific charges against them. Stewart defended Weather Underground member David Gilbert, who was found guilty for his role in the 1981 Brinks armored car robbery
Brinks robbery (1981)
The Brink's robbery of 1981 was an armed robbery committed on October 20, 1981, which was carried out by Black Liberation Army members; including Jeral Wayne Williams , Donald Weems , Samuel Smith, Nathaniel Burns , Cecilio "Chui" Ferguson, Samuel Brown ; several former members of the Weather...

 in which two police officers and a security guard were murdered. In 1991, Stewart was subpoena
A subpoena is a writ by a government agency, most often a court, that has authority to compel testimony by a witness or production of evidence under a penalty for failure. There are two common types of subpoena:...

ed to explain an alternative fee arrangements
Alternative fee arrangements
Alternative fee arrangements , in the practice of law, occur when payments to a law firm are based on a method other than billable hours....

 with a gang member who she had defending on a drug trafficking charge. Stewart refused the subpoena and eventually pleaded guilty to contempt of court
Contempt of court
Contempt of court is a court order which, in the context of a court trial or hearing, declares a person or organization to have disobeyed or been disrespectful of the court's authority...

 charge, a misdemeanor
A misdemeanor is a "lesser" criminal act in many common law legal systems. Misdemeanors are generally punished much less severely than felonies, but theoretically more so than administrative infractions and regulatory offences...

 that would not result in her disbarment. Another high profile client was Black Panther
Black Panther Party
The Black Panther Party wasan African-American revolutionary leftist organization. It was active in the United States from 1966 until 1982....

 Willie Holder who hijacked Western Airlines Flight 701
Western Airlines
Western Airlines was a large airline based in California, with operations throughout the Western United States, and hubs at Los Angeles International Airport, Salt Lake City International Airport, and the former Stapleton International Airport in Denver...

 on June 2, 1972 in an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate for the release of Angela Davis
Angela Davis
Angela Davis is an American political activist, scholar, and author. Davis was most politically active during the late 1960s through the 1970s and was associated with the Communist Party USA, the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panther Party...


Stewart along with William Kunstler
William Kunstler
William Moses Kunstler was an American self-described "radical lawyer" and civil rights activist, known for his controversial clients...

 represented Larry Davis
Larry Davis (criminal)
Larry Davis , who changed his name to Adam Abdul-Hakeem in 1989, was a New Yorker who shot six New York City police officers on November 19, 1986 when they raided his sister's Bronx apartment. The police said that the raid was executed in order to question Davis about the killing of four suspected...

 who was charged with the attempted murder of nine NYPD officers during a shootout as well as the murder of four Bronx drug dealers. Stewart and Kunstler secured Davis an acquittal on the more serious murder and attempted murder charges but Davis was found guilty on lesser felony weapon possession charge After the trial Stewart ended her relationship with Kunstler, feeling marginalized by Kunstler hogging the publicity of the case and not giving her due credit. Even Davis believed that Stewart was more instrumental in his acquittal stating that “Everyone thinks Kunstler beat the case. Lynne Stewart beat the case”.

Another high profile client of Stewart’s was Sammy “the Bull” Gravano
Sammy Gravano
Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano is a former underboss of the Gambino crime family. He is known as the man who helped bring down John Gotti, the family's boss, by agreeing to become a Federal Bureau of Investigation informant and turn state's evidence.Originally a mobster for the Colombo crime...

 and his son whom she unsuccessfully defended on ecstasy
Ecstasy may refer to:* Ecstasy , a trance or trance-like state in which an individual transcends normal consciousness* Religious ecstasy, a state of consciousness characterized by expanded spiritual awareness, visions or absolute euphoria...

 trafficking charges.

Stewart says that all her high-profile clients share the distinction of being revolutionaries against unjust systems or people whose cases expose those injustices. However, unlike most movement lawyers who found communications with prosecuting attorneys to be repugnant, former assistant US Attorney Andrew McCarthy
Andrew C. McCarthy
Andrew C. McCarthy III is a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. A Republican, he is most notable for leading the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others. The defendants were convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center...

, found Stewart “eminently reasonable and practical” and commented that “when she gave her word on something, she honored it — she never acted as if she thought one was at liberty to be false when dealing with the enemy.”

The Abdel-Rahman case

After the first World Trade Center bombing in February 1993, the FBI began to investigate Omar Abdel-Rahman
Omar Abdel-Rahman
Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman , commonly known in the United States as "The Blind Sheikh", is a blind Egyptian Muslim leader who is currently serving a life sentence at the Butner Medical Center which is part of the Butner Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina, United...

. The FBI recorded Rahman issuing a fatwa
A fatwā in the Islamic faith is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwā is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwā...

 encouraging acts of violence against US civilian targets, particularly in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area. Rahman was arrested on 24 June 1993. The targets were the United Nations Headquarters
United Nations headquarters
The headquarters of the United Nations is a complex in New York City. The complex has served as the official headquarters of the United Nations since its completion in 1952. It is located in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, on spacious grounds overlooking the East River...

, the Lincoln Tunnel
Lincoln Tunnel
The Lincoln Tunnel is a long tunnel under the Hudson River, connecting Weehawken, New Jersey and the borough of Manhattan in New York City.-History:...

, the Holland Tunnel
Holland Tunnel
The Holland Tunnel is a highway tunnel under the Hudson River connecting the island of Manhattan in New York City with Jersey City, New Jersey at Interstate 78 on the mainland. Unusual for an American public works project, it is not named for a government official, politician, or local hero or...

, the George Washington Bridge
George Washington Bridge
The George Washington Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Hudson River, connecting the Washington Heights neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City to Fort Lee, Bergen County, New Jersey. Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 1/9 cross the river via the bridge. U.S...

, and the FBI's main New York office at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building
Jacob K. Javits Federal Building
Jacob K. Javits Federal Office Building at 26 Federal Plaza in the Civic Center, Manhattan, New York City is a forty-plus story structure which houses many federal government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation New York City field office...

. There were also plans to bomb Jewish targets in the city as well as assassinating U.S. Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 Al D'Amato
Al D'Amato
Alfonse Marcello "Al" D'Amato is an American lawyer and former New York politician. A Republican, he served as United States Senator from New York from 1981 to 1999.-Early life and family:...

 and Egyptian President
President of Egypt
The President of the Arab Republic of Egypt is the head of state of Egypt.Under the Constitution of Egypt, the president is also the supreme commander of the armed forces and head of the executive branch of the Egyptian government....

 Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak
Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak is a former Egyptian politician and military commander. He served as the fourth President of Egypt from 1981 to 2011....


In November 1994, former Johnson administration
Johnson Administration
Johnson Administration may refer to:*Andrew Johnson Administration, 17th President of the United States, 1865–1869*Lyndon B. Johnson Administration, 36th President of the United States, 1963–1969...

 attorney general Ramsey Clark
Ramsey Clark
William Ramsey Clark is an American lawyer, activist and former public official. He worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, which included service as United States Attorney General from 1967 to 1969, under President Lyndon B. Johnson...

 met with Stewart and asked her to take Rahman on as a client after his other lawyers, Ron Kuby
Ron Kuby
Ronald L. Kuby is a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, radio talk show host and TV commentator. He has hosted radio programs on WABC Radio in New York and Air America Radio.-Beginnings:...

 and William Kunstler were taken off the case for conflict of interest. Stewart was reluctant at first, but Clark convinced to take the case arguing that Arabs would feel betrayed if she didnt. She came to believe that "the only hope for change in Egypt is the fundamentalist movement" represented by people like Rahman. Kuby, who had represented Rahamn prior disagreed with Stewart' characterization stating that "I love Lynne, but no one in the world could fairly posit the sheikh as a progressive or liberal on any issue,". Kuby went on to add that "In the aftermath of September 11th, I could no longer put myself in the service of those who are trying to create a world in which I would be put up against a wall and shot, and my daughter and wife would be put in burqa
A burqa is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic religion to cover their bodies in public places. The burqa is usually understood to be the woman's loose body-covering , plus the head-covering , plus the face-veil .-Etymology:A speculative and unattested etymology...


During Rahman's trial she argued to the jury that Rahman had been framed for “his political and religious teachings” and not, as the prosecution alleged, that he conspired in any violent acts against the United States. Rahman was convicted of seditious conspiracy on October 1, 1995, and in 1996 he was sentenced to life in prison. Stewart reportedly wept when the jury announced its decision.

Violation of "Special Administrative Measure"

As part of Stewart’s defense of Rahman, and her serving for several years on post-conviction issues, she was subject to a modified "special administrative measures" which governs communications between suspects and their legal counsel. Stewart had accepted the condition that, in order to be allowed to meet with Abdel Rahman in prison, she would not "use [their] meetings, correspondence, or phone calls with Abdel Rahman to pass messages between third parties (including, but not limited to, the media) and Abdel Rahman". The special administrative measures, or SAM, was modified in the wake of the September 11th attacks and was designed to prevent communications that could endanger US national security or lead to acts of violence and terrorism.

According to a federal grand jury
Grand jury
A grand jury is a type of jury that determines whether a criminal indictment will issue. Currently, only the United States retains grand juries, although some other common law jurisdictions formerly employed them, and most other jurisdictions employ some other type of preliminary hearing...

An indictment , in the common-law legal system, is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that maintain the concept of felonies, the serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that lack the concept of felonies often use that of an indictable offence—an...

 Stewart along with interpreter Mohamed Yousry, an adjunct professor in Middle East studies at York College CUNY
York College, City University of New York
York College of The City University of New York is one of eleven senior colleges in the City University of New York system. It is located in Jamaica, Queens in New York City...

, and postal clerk Ahmed Sattar passed messages between Rahman and his supporters in violation of the SAM. The indictment also charged Ahmed Sattar with being an active Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya leader who served as a vital link between Rahman and the group’s members. Stewart was accused in the indictment of passing Rahman's blessing for a resumption of terrorist operations to Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya members in Egypt after they inquired whether they should continue to honor a ceasefire agreement with the Egyptian government. According to video surveillance of Rahman’s cell Stewart, Yousry and Rahman had been tricking the guards into believing that Stewart and Rahman were having a routine conversation relating to his case, when Rahman was dictating statements to Yousry with Stewart joking that she should get an award for acting.

Stewart said that the dispute was over one communication on behalf of her client to his supporters via a Reuters
Reuters is a news agency headquartered in New York City. Until 2008 the Reuters news agency formed part of a British independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data...

article, followed by a clarification after it appeared to have been misinterpreted. The clarification said: "I [Omar Abdel-Rahman] am not withdrawing my support of the cease-fire, I am merely questioning it and I am urging you, who are on the ground there to discuss it and to include everyone in your discussions as we always have done."

The material support charges were dismissed in the summer of 2003, but in November 2003 Stewart was re-indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism. She was convicted on these charges.

According to Judge John G. Koeltl
John G. Koeltl
John George Koeltl is a judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.-Education:Koeltl graduated from Regis High School in New York City in 1963...

, in denying Stewart's motion to reject the verdict as unfounded,
A rational jury could have inferred that, by relaying a statement withdrawing support for a cessation of violence by an influential, pro-violence leader of a terrorist group, Stewart knew that she was providing support to those within the IG (Islamic Group) who sought to return to violence—who the jury could have found were participants in the Count Two conspiracy, particularly Taha.

Michael Tigar
Michael Tigar
Michael E. Tigar is an American criminal defense attorney known for representing controversial clients. He is also a member of the Duke Law School faculty.-Early life and education:...

, her attorney, stated that “that this case really is a threat to all the lawyers who are out there attempting to represent people that face these terrible consequences” Supporters of Stewart alleged that the government charged her for her speech in defending the rights of her client. They believed that Stewart's efforts to release communications from her client were part of an appropriate defense method to gain public awareness and support. They also expressed alarm that wiretaps and hidden cameras authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act were used by the Government to gather evidence against her, which they called a violation of attorney-client privilege
Attorney-client privilege
Attorney–client privilege is a legal concept that protects certain communications between a client and his or her attorney and keeps those communications confidential....

. George Soros'
George Soros
George Soros is a Hungarian-American business magnate, investor, philosopher, and philanthropist. He is the chairman of Soros Fund Management. Soros supports progressive-liberal causes...

 Open Society Institute
Open Society Institute
The Open Society Institute , renamed in 2011 to Open Society Foundations, is a private operating and grantmaking foundation started by George Soros, aimed to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic, legal, and social reform...

 also donated $20,000 to Stewart's legal defense fund in 2002. Commenting on her case, human rights organization Front Line
Front Line (NGO)
Front Line or The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is an Irish-based human rights organisation founded in Dublin, Ireland in 2001 to protect human rights defenders at risk, i.e...

 states that it "has had a chilling effect on human rights defenders who stand between government agencies and potential victims of abuses."


On February 10, 2005, following a nine-month trial and 13 days of jury deliberations, Stewart was found guilty of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, and defrauding the U.S. government. Co-defendants Mohamed Yousry and Ahmed Sattar were found guilty as charged. Her conviction meant automatic disbarment, and on October 16, 2006, Judge Koeltl sentenced Stewart to 28 months in prison. Sattar is serving his sentence at the Federal Supermax prison
ADX Florence
The United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility is a supermax prison for men that is located in unincorporated Fremont County, Colorado, United States, south of Florence. It is unofficially known as ADX Florence, Florence ADMAX, Supermax, or The Alcatraz of the Rockies...

 in Florence, Colorado
Florence, Colorado
The City of Florence is a Statutory City located in Fremont County, Colorado, United States. The population was 3,653 at the 2000 census.ADX Florence, the only federal Supermax prison in the United States, is located south of Florence in an unincorporated area in Fremont County...


Stewart remained free on bail pending the results of her appeal. However, the appeal also raised the stakes, in that the United States Attorney's office asked the Court of Appeals not only to uphold the conviction but to require a much longer sentence than Judge Koeltl imposed. This risk only grew when, after the shock of conviction and facing decades in prison, her relief upon being sentenced to 28 months led her to exult spontaneously to the press, "I can do that standing on my head." For the sentencing judge to hear that was surely unfortunate, if the appeals court were to direct that he re-sentence her to reflect her degree of remorse - as indeed it ultimately did.

Sentencing submissions

In a letter to the court dated September 26, 2006, Stewart stated that her actions were consistent with how she had always represented her clients, but that she had failed to recognize the difference in a post-2001 America and, in hindsight, should have been more careful to avoid misinterpretation. Claiming that persons with 'other agendas' had misinterpreted her actions, she said: "I inadvertently allowed those with other agendas to corrupt the most precious and inviolate basis of our profession – the attorney-client relationship.". According the The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

Stewart "acknowledged ... that she knowingly violated prison rules and was careless, overemotional and politically naïve in her representation of a terrorist client." Stewart requested that the Court exercise the sentencing discretion given judges by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Booker, and impose a non-custodial sentence. The original sentencing was to be in July 2005, but Stewart's defense team had repeatedly asked for and received numerous adjournment
An adjournment is a suspension of proceedings to another time or place. To adjourn means to suspend until a later stated time or place.-Law:In law, to adjourn means to suspend proceedings to another time or place, or to end them....

s because she was receiving treatment for breast cancer. The defense team also argued that Stewart's age, problematic general health and cancer history could well mean that she would be in prison for the rest of her life if she were sentenced to serve several years.

The prosecution requested that the Court impose the maximum statutory penalty, saying, "We hope that this sentence of 30 years will not only punish Stewart for her actions, but serve as a deterrent for other lawyers who believe that they are above the rules and regulations of penal institutions or otherwise try to skirt the laws of this country."

Judge Koeltl refused both to impose the 30-year sentence proposed by the prosecution or to waive jail time entirely as Stewart had requested. He stated that while over her long career of representing unpopular clients Stewart had "performed a public service, not only to her clients, but to the nation," her conduct was “extraordinarily severe” and “criminal” in this case.

Re-sentencing; 10 years

In response to Stewart's appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions on November 17, 2009 and ordered the district court to revoke Stewart's bail immediately and remanded the case for resentencing in light of her possible perjury at her trial and other factors not properly considered against her by the sentencing judge.

On November 19, 2009, Stewart surrendered to U.S. Marshals in New York City to begin serving a 28-month sentence as prisoner #53504-054. On July 15, 2010, Stewart was re-sentenced by Judge Koeltl on remand to 10 years in prison, taking into consideration her alleged perjury at her trial and other factors as directed by the appellate court.

External links

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