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July 15, 2010

Lynne Stewart gets 10-year federal prison sentence the second time around

As detailed in this AP article, Lynne Stewart "was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison in a terrorism case by a judge who boosted her original sentence by nearly eight years after concluding she lied to a jury and lacked remorse." Here are more details:

The sentence, nearly four times longer than the two-year, four-month sentence she originally received in 2006, left Stewart sobbing in her prison uniform after Koeltl described his reasons for increasing the prison time significantly.

An appeals court had ordered a new sentencing, saying the terrorism component of the case needed to be considered, along with whether she committed perjury at her trial. The court said it had "serious doubts" whether her original sentence was reasonable.

The judge said public comments Stewart made after her first sentencing showed him that the "original sentence was not sufficient." He said she showed "a lack of remorse for conduct that was both illegal and potentially lethal."

Outside court after her original sentence, Stewart said she could do the prison time standing on her head.

Koeltl found that Stewart "willfully testified falsely at the trial" on numerous points, including in telling jurors she did not make Egyptian Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman available to his followers and did not violate government rules meant to silence the sheik because lawyers worked in a "bubble" in which the government understood the rules were relaxed. "The purpose of the testimony was to mislead the jury on material matters," he said. He also found she had violated a position of public trust, a finding he had not made at the original sentencing.

She was convicted of providing material support to a terrorist organization for letting Abdel-Rahman communicate with a man who relayed messages to senior members of an Egyptian-based terrorist organization....

In her statement to the court Thursday, Stewart said prison life was harder than she had ever imagined. "Over the last eight months, prison has diminished me," she told the judge, choking up briefly as she described the hardship of separation from her family.

"I sense myself losing pieces of my personhood," she said as she described how prison thoughts become regimented like the institutional regulations she must follow. She said she felt a world that once surrounded her with family was "slipping away, and there is so little I can do about it."

Prosecutors had asked the judge to impose a sentence of at least 15 years. The courtroom was packed with supporters of Stewart, who applauded her entrance and shouted "No!" when she said she feared she had let them down.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dember told Koeltl that "substantial incarceration is warranted" because Stewart knew she was part of a conspiracy to murder innocent civilians. "She repeatedly lied to the government and deceived the government," Dember said. "Ms. Stewart repeatedly committed perjury in this case." He said she was just "another criminal who fails to accept responsibility."

This term is a bit longer than I expected, and it shows yet again that sometimes defendants can get in additional trouble at sentencing based on what they say and not just based on what they have done.

July 15, 2010 at 09:06 PM | Permalink


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She should be executed for treason. The lawyers on the bench and in the legislatures that saved her life by their pro-terrorist laws and decisions should be arrested as terrorist collaborators, come the next major terror attack on our shore. I tried to look up sentencing law and policy on treason in Prof. Berman. Nothing.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 15, 2010 10:21:03 PM

the federal court system is out of control
see my website


Posted by: Kris Sergentakis | Jul 16, 2010 7:41:04 AM

But the message that she was convicted of passing was that the group should reconsider their cease-fire with the Egyptian government, wasn't it?

Can someone please explain to me how in the hell a sentence like this is justified? IMHO, this is one of those cases that really hangs a cloud over the legitimacy of the criminal justice system.

Posted by: Guy | Jul 16, 2010 7:00:07 PM

Got to agree with Guy here.

In the hysterical, Chicken-Little atmosphere of post-911 America, oppressive restrictions imposed on Gitmo lawyers could be rationalized. So could the overly harsh reaction a couple of years later to Stewart's offending press conference.

But to come back nearly ten years later and put an old lady in prison for a virtual life sentence for things that weren't illegal before Bush and Cheney scuttled the Constitution is nothing short of madness.

We've either got to put a reign on the tyrannical impulses of government officials or we've got to start tamping down some of our lofty, we're-No.1, bastion-of-freedom slogans.

Posted by: JohnK | Jul 16, 2010 8:16:20 PM

This hag should count her blessings. Real justice would have been to turn over this hag to Egyptian authorities. She recklessly risked the lives of thousands by acting as a messenger for a killer. I hope this miserable woman hates every day of her incarceration. They should fill her cell with unbreakable mirrors--so that this aesthetically challenged woman has to look at her face constantly.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 17, 2010 9:38:03 PM

It sounds like federalist really hates women who are older and unattractive. He would punish them all for being not young and pretty. That is why the feminist movement became what it is. Women do not want to be only a young, pretty "sex object" for stupid old farts. They are people, human beings, just as much loved by God, as the old white farts.

Posted by: DLJ | Jul 18, 2010 3:19:50 PM

ooooh, you got me DLJ--lighten up. Calling a traitorous woman a "hag" and remarking that she's going to have to look at herself isn't exactly the worse offense against feminism. I don't recall too many feminists getting worked up about the Linda Tripp episode. And I wouldn't punish any innocent woman.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 18, 2010 6:58:28 PM

DLJ --

The problem is not federalist. The problem is Lynne Stewart's behavior. The judge stuggled mightily to give her a gigantic break the first time around, but she would have none of it, responding with a mixture of defiance, lies and I'm-the-victim whining.

She was not convicted of treason per se, but treason is what she was up to, make no mistake about it. To this day she maintains that her only mistake was in not being clever enough at concealing what she was doing. Yikes.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 19, 2010 5:10:50 AM

I'm curious about the source(s) of passion for harsh or lenient sentences so prevalent in some on this site. One purpose of Guidelines sentencing is to take some of the emotion out of the sentencing process. It's not just a function of minimizing individual differences. Now that we have only advisory Guidelines, I'd like to ask -- for those who generally "root" for a harsh sentence, as well as for those who generally root for a lenient sentence -- what is it about your personality and background that makes you that way? Have you been a victim of a crime? Have you been a criminal? What is your personality generally like? Are you generally rebellious/conformist?

Posted by: Mark Pickrell | Jul 19, 2010 10:18:05 AM

My guess is that federalist is himself "aesthetically challenged," and that his apparent misogyny stems from having been rejected by pretty women all his life.

Posted by: marlboro man | Jul 19, 2010 1:08:58 PM

reasonably well educated member of general public who believes every person accused of crime is entitled to vigorous and thorough defense as part of centuries-old Anglo American presumption of innocence. I'm truly disgusted by the way attorney Stewart's ethical commitment to defending an unpopular client is misinterpreted. no comments to post yet; I'm stillr eading up on the re-sentencing.

Posted by: Judith | Jul 20, 2010 3:18:36 PM

I posted this above, and I'll ask again -- can someone please explain to me how her action was treasonous? She was trying to get the TO to engage in a cease-fire, wasn't she? Isn't that something that we want?

Posted by: Guy | Jul 20, 2010 11:58:11 PM

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