In late 2013 the radical lawyer Lynne Stewart received a “compassionate release” from prison in light of her terminal illness. Stewart was released with the consent of the prosecutors who joined her motion for release. On Tuesday Stewart died of the cancer that prompted her release. The New York Times has published a long and respectful obituary.
I met up with Stewart at the national convention of the National Lawyers Guild in Minneapolis in October 2003 and wrote about it for Power Line in “Face to face with Lynne Stewart.” Unbelievably, the National Lawyers Guild still exists. Believably, the Guild applauded Stewart’s release. But of course! They opposed her prosecution.
I had agreed to speak on a panel with Stewart addressing the PATRIOT Act. Stewart was under indictment at the time and used the National Lawyers Guild forum to decry then Attorney General John Ashcroft for having the temerity to indict her for transmitting secret instructions from Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (“the Blind Sheikh”) to his terrorist minions in Egypt.
The National Lawyers Guild was an old Communist front group. Many handouts at the Guild’s 2003 convention touted the cause of the only Cuban prisoners championed by the Guild — “the Cuba five.” The five, of course, were not any of Castro’s prisoners, but rather five Cuban men held in federal prison on conviction of offenses including espionage against the United States. “Free the Cuba Five” was the motto; the cause of the Cuba Five was part of the Guild’s old-time religion. In December 2014 President Obama freed the Cuba Five.
The Guild’s PATRIOT Act panel demonstrated how the Guild had moved seamlessly from defending America’s Communist enemies to defending America’s terrorist enemies. The common denominator between the Communist Manifesto and Sharia law is not apparent in theory; only in practice does raw hatred of the United States reveal itself as the glue joining the Guild with its latter day devotion to holy terrorists.
In Minneapolis Stewart invoked the dark night of fascism in response to her indictment. The assistance she rendered the Blind Sheikh was not only criminal in itself, but also violative of her promise to the government not to abuse her access to him as his attorney. Stewart’s terrorist-related crimes were premeditated and cold-blooded. She lied about her crimes and she faced up to thirty years in prison on the convictions.
Unfortunately, Judge John Koeltl sentenced Stewart to a mere twenty-eight months. Judge Koeltl’s rationale for leniency was in part that there was “no evidence that any victim was in fact harmed” as a result of Stewart’s crimes. He seemed to think we needed to see more blood in the streets before we got riled up about Stewart’s assistance to terrorists.
Our friend Andrew McCarthy was the Assistant U.S. Attorney who successfully led the prosecution of the blind sheikh. Andy reflected on his extensive experience with Stewart as sentencing day approached. (Andy confessed to liking Stewart.)
Sharon Chadha did a good job of telling Stewart’s story in “Lynne Stewart, jihadi lawyer.” It is a story that illustrates the weird convergence between radical Islam and the radical left, united in their hatred of the United States.
At the time of Stewart’s sentencing by Judge Koeltl in 2005, the government disagreed sufficiently vehemently with Koeltl’s leniency to appeal the sentence to the Second Circuit. An unamused panel of the Second Circuit ordered Judge Koeltl to reconsider and give some weight to her perjury at trial. On remand, having been chastened by the Second Circuit, Judge Koeltl resentenced Stewart, this time to 10 years.
Like the Communists of old, Stewart was a hard case. And like the Communists of old, she had prominent friends.
Although disbarred as a result of her conviction, Stewart was invited to address a legal ethics conference at Hofstra Law School in the fall of 2007. According to Hofstra’s Web site, conference speakers were expected to discuss “prosecutorial abuse, the challenges of representing prisoners at Guantanamo and attacks on lawyers who represent unpopular clients and causes.” Walter Olson previewed the conference in “Over the edge.”
According to a New York Times report on the conference summarized here, Stewart admitted to having been “cavalier” in the way she followed certain regulations governing communications with her client, but argued that the human bond between a lawyer and client is critical to the lawyer’s role as legal adviser. Said Stewart: “I was representing a client, and I would do it again, but I would do it in a way that would better insulate me.” Her main regret, she reportedly said, was that she was unaware the government was secretly taping her conversations with her client. As I say, Stewart was a hard case.
In today’s New York Post Seth Lipsky wonders why an aging leftist like Stewart found so all-fired attractive in a leader in the war that is being waged against America in the name of radical Islam. That’s the question that prompted me to meet up with her back in 2003. In death Stewart remains a case study in what has become a widely observed phenomenon.