Feb 21, 2005
Lynne Stewart, 65, long a public defender of the rights of the poor and those who would oppose the government, was entrapped and railroaded to perhaps 30 years in jail for representing an Islamic sheik charged with terrorism.
The U.S. Justice Department indicted Stewart in 2002, accusing her of conspiracy and providing support for terrorism by her client, Sheik Omar Rahman. On February 10, 2004, she was convicted by a jury that was subjected to every form of pressure and intimidation that the federal government could bring to bear, including arranging the trial to be held only blocks from Ground Zero. And although nothing in the trial dealt with Osama bin Laden, prosecutors filled the proceedings with his name and images, hoping to prejudice the jury. In this they were successful.
But what did Lynne Stewart actually do? To keep his case public, she gave to Reuters one press release by her client. And she was present while others took down statements made by her client. For those two acts, which are perfectly normal things that lawyers have always done as part of their legal duties to clients, Stewart now faces 30 years in jail.
But of course, she was not prosecuted for those acts or for any other, except for one: she dared to defend someone that the U.S. government did not want defended. It was for that reason that the U.S. Attorney General violated the Sixth Amendment by secretly ordering the taping and recording of every meeting Stewart had with her client, and using that as evidence in court. It was for that reason the U.S. Attorney General violated the First Amendment by prosecuting Stewart for a press release.
In the end, Stewart was framed up as a warning to every other lawyer who may dare to defend whomever the government wants to put away. Trying to terrorize the lawyers only shows the government has no case – despite its wild claims.