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Lawyer gets 10-year term in terrorism case

Lawyer Lynne Stewart exits federal court in New York, Tuesday, June 22, 2004. Federal prosecutors have accused Stewart of conspiring with two men to improperly aid her client, Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Egyptian sheik serving a life sentence for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks and assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Prosecutors say Stewart smuggled out his orders for followers to launch violent attacks on Americans worldwide. ((AP Photo/John Marshall Mantel))

July 15, 2010 5:13:53 PM PDT
A 70-year-old civil rights lawyer 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.

"I'm somewhat stunned," Lynne Stewart told U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl after he announced the sentence for her conviction for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers despite restrictions in place to prevent it.

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.

Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence for conspiracies to blow up New York City landmarks and assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Stewart represented him at his 1995 trial.

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."

In her statement to the judge, Stewart said she found prison life "worse than I could have imagined."

She added: "I will live, not standing on my head, that I know for sure - just surviving."


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