Friday, July 16, 2010

From Lynne Stewart Defense Committee on her sentencing

Note from RnB - Bob Lederer

Thanks to Jeff Mackler, West Coast Director of the Lynne Stewart
Defense Committee, for this quick and thorough account.

One small caveat, however: I clearly heard the judge say (twice) that
he "recommended" (not "ordered") that Lynne be housed at the Danbury,
CT federal prison (about 3 hours from New York City), so she would be
close to her family. My understanding, which could be incorrect, is
that federal judges do not have the authority to dictate what prison
the person convicted must be sent to -- that decision is up to the
Bureau of Prisons of the U.S. Justice Department.

Also I heard the judge order (I believe in this case it was an order)
that Lynne be given 60 more days at Metropolitan Correctional Center
in Manhattan to work on any appeal she may choose to file, before
being transferred to her ultimate prison destination.

Finally, I remember that after the judge announced his decision to
sentence Lynne to 10 years, but before he formally pronounced the
sentence, he asked her if she wanted to say anything. She replied,
"I'm stunned," said that this was far different from the life
trajectory she had anticipated, and then added what Jeff reports:
that she felt bad that she "had let down" her supporters. Of course
it's really this repressive, unjust system that brutally let down
Lynne and lovers of justice everywhere.

Lynne Stewart sentenced to ten years in prison

(Jeff Mackler is the West Coast Director of the Lynne Stewart Defense

The full force of the U.S. criminal "justice" system came down on
innocent political prisoner, 30-year veteran human rights attorney
and radical political activist Lynne Stewart today, July 15, 2010.

In an obviously pre-prepared one hour and twenty minute technical
tour de force designed to give legitimacy to a reactionary ruling
Federal District Court John Koeltl, who in 2005 sentenced Stewart to
28 months in prison following her frame-up trial and jury conviction
on four counts of "conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism,"
re-sentenced Stewart to 120 months or ten years. Stewart will serve
her sentence in Danbury, Connecticut's minimum security prison.

The jam-packed New York Federal District Court chamber observers
where Koeltl held forth let our a gasp of pain and anguish as Lynne's
family and friends were stunned - tears flowing down the stricken and
somber faces of many. A magnificent Stewart, ever the political
fighter and organizer was able to say to her supporters that she felt
badly because she "had let them down," a reference to the massive
outpouring of solidarity and defiance that was the prime
characteristic of Lynne's long fight for freedom.

Judge Koeltl was ordered to revisit his relatively short sentence
when it was overturned by a two-judge majority of the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judges Robert D. Sack and Guido
Calabresi ruled that Koeltl's sentence was flawed because he had
declined to determine whether Stewart committed perjury when she
testified at her trial that she believed that she was effectively
operating under a "bubble" protecting her from prosecution when she
issued a press release on behalf of her also framed-up client, the
blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman. Rachman was falsely charged with
conspiracy to damage New York state buildings.

Dissenting Judge John M. Walker, who called Stewart's sentence,
"breathtakingly low" in view of Stewart's "extraordinarily severe
criminal conduct" deemed the Second Circuit's majority opinion
"substantively unreasonable." Walker essentially sought to impose or
demand a 30-year sentence.

The three-judge panel on Dec. 20, 2009 followed its initial ruling
with even tougher language demanding that Koeltl revisit his
treatment of the "terrorism enhancement" aspects of the law. A
cowardly Koeltl, who didn't need this argument to dramatically
increase Stewart's sentence, asserted that he had already taken it
under consideration in his original deliberations.

Government prosecutors, who in 2005 sought a 30-year sentence, had
submitted a 155-page memorandum arguing in support of a 15-30 year
sentence. Their arguments demonstrated how twisted logic coupled with
vindictive and lying government officials routinely turn the victim
into the criminal.

Stewart's attorneys countered with a detailed brief recounting the
facts of the case and demonstrating that Stewart's actions in defense
of her client were well within the realm of past practice and
accepted procedures. They argued that Koeltl properly exercised his
discretion in determining that, while the terrorism enhancement
provisions of the "law" had to be taken into consideration, the
30-year-prison term associated with it was "dramatically
unreasonable, overstated the seriousness" of Stewart's conduct and
had already been factored into Koeltl's decision.

Stewart's attorney's also argued convincingly in their brief that the
Special Administrative Measure (SAM) that Stewart was convicted of
violating by releasing a statement from her client to the media was
well within the established practice of Stewart's experienced and
mentoring co-counsels- former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and
past American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee president Abdeen
Jabarra. Both had issued similar statements to the press with no
government reprisal. Clark was an observer in Koeltl's courtroom.

As worst in such matters, government officials refuse defense
attorneys visiting rights with their clients until an agreement on a
contested interpretation of a SAM is reached. Indeed, in Stewart's
case when the matter was brought to then Attorney General Janet Reno,
the government declined to prosecute or otherwise take any action
against Stewart.

But Koeltl, who had essentially accepted this view in his original
sentence, reversed himself entirely and proceeded in his
erudite-sounding new rendition of the law to repeatedly charge
Stewart with multiple acts of perjury regarding her statements on the
SAM during her trial.

Koeltl took the occasion to lecture Stewart regarding the first words
she uttered in front of a bevy of media when she joyfully alighted
from the courthouse following the judge's original 28-month sentence.
Said Stewart at that time, "I can do 28 months standing on my head."
A few moments earlier Stewart, with nothing but a plastic bag
containing a toothbrush, toothpaste and her various medications, had
stood before Koeltl, who had been asked by the government to sentence
Stewart to a 30 year term, effectively a death sentence for Lynne,
aged 70, a diabetic recovering breast cancer victim and less than
excellent health.

Koeltl dutifully followed the lead of the Second Circuit judges, who
feigned outrage that Stewart could possibly appear joyful that her
life was spared despite 28 months in prison. Koeltl insisted that
Stewart's remark was essentially contemptuous of his sentence and
insufficient to convince Stewart of the seriousness of her "crime."
Lynne's argument that while she fully understood that 28 months
behind bars, separating from her "family, friends and comrades," was
a harsh penalty, she was nevertheless "relieved" that she would not
die in prison. Koeltl needed a legal brick to throw at Lynne's head
and ignored her humanity, honesty and deep feeling of relief when she
expressed it to a crowd of two thousand friends, supporters and a
good portion of the nation's media.

The same Judge Koeltl who stated in 2005, when he rendered the
28-month jail term, that Lynne was "a credit to her profession and to
the nation," clearly heard the voice of institutionalized hate and
cruelty and responded in according with its unstated code. "Show no
mercy! Thou shall not dissent without grave punishment" in capitalist America.

Lynne was convicted in the post-911 generated climate of political
hysteria. Bush appointee, Attorney General John Ashcroft, decided to
make an example of her aimed at warning future attorneys that the
mere act of defending anyone whom the government charged with
"conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism," could trigger terrible consequences.

On July 15 Judge Koeltl made the decision of his career. Known for
his meticulous preparation in such matters, and already having
enraged the powers that be with his "light" sentence of Stewart, he
bent full tilt to the reactionary political pressures exerted on him
by the court hierarchy. He had the option to stand tall and reaffirm
his original decision. The "law" allowed him to do so. He could have
permitted Lynne to leave prison in less than two years, recover her
health, and lead a productive life. His massively extended sentence,
unless overturned, will likely lead to Lynne's demise behind bars - a
brilliant and dedicated fighter sacrificed on the alter of an
intolerant class-biased system of repression and war.

Courage is a rare quality in the capitalist judiciary. For every
defiant decision made, usually driven by a change in the political
climate driven forward by the rise of mass social protest movements,
there are thousands and more of political appointees that affirm the
status quo, including its punishment of all who struggle to challenge
capitalist prerogatives and power.

Lynne Stewart stands tall among the latter. We can only hope that the
winds of change that are stirring the consciousness of millions today
in the context of an American capitalism in economic and moral crisis
keeps the movement for her freedom alive and well. The fight is not
over! What we do now remains critical. Lynne's expected appeal to the
U.S. Supreme Court cannot be written off as absurd and hopeless. What
we do collectively to free her and all political prisoners and to
fight for freedom and justice on every front counts for everything!

Write to Lynne at:
Lynne Stewart 53504-054
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007

For further information call Lynne's husband, Ralph Poynter, leader
of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, at
718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759.

Send contributions payable to:

Lynne Stewart Organization
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York, 11216

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