[Marxism] Free-Speech Argument in Appeal of Disbarred Lawyer’s Sentence

Bonnie Weinstein giobon at comcast.net
Thu Mar 1 10:44:19 MST 2012

Free-Speech Argument in Appeal of Disbarred Lawyer’s Sentence
February 29, 2012

Throughout her long career, the disbarred lawyer Lynne F. Stewart has  
rarely minced words or stood mute. But her propensity for speaking  
her mind is now at the crux of an appeal of her 10-year sentence in  
federal prison.

Ms. Stewart, known for defending unpopular clients and causes, was  
convicted in 2005 on five counts of providing material aid to  
terrorism and of lying to the government. A jury found that she had  
broken the rules to help her client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman,  
communicate with his followers in the Islamic Group, an Egyptian  
organization with a history of terrorist violence.

Judge John G. Koeltl of Federal District Court in Manhattan  
originally sentenced Ms. Stewart to 28 months in prison. But federal  
prosecutors appealed and pushed for a new sentence, claiming that Ms.  
Stewart had made public statements indicating a lack of remorse; she  
was then resentenced to 10 years in prison.

“One of the most cherished policies of this nation is that everybody  
should be allowed to speak freely,” a lawyer for Ms. Stewart, Herald  
Price Fahringer, told a three-judge panel in United States Court of  
Appeals for the Second Circuit on Wednesday morning. “This case puts  
that principle to a very great test.”

Mr. Fahringer said it had been “highly hazardous” for Judge Koeltl to  
consider Ms. Stewart’s statements outside of court in his sentencing  

But he was interrupted by Judge Robert D. Sack, who said, “I’m not  
sure that freedom of speech means absolute immunity from the  
consequences of what you say.”

A few minutes later, another judge, John M. Walker Jr., asked, “How  
else do you get a window into the character of the defendant?”

The first of Ms. Stewart’s comments that are at issue came shortly  
after she received the 28-month sentence in 2006. Appearing before a  
throng of supporters in front of a courthouse in Lower Manhattan, she  
called the sentence “fair and right,” but then declared, “I can do  
that standing on my head.”

A few days later, while appearing on the radio show “Democracy Now,”  
Ms. Stewart was asked by a reporter, Amy Goodman, if she regretted  
her conduct, and she replied, “I might handle it a little  
differently, but I would do it again.”

The appeals panel sent the case back to Judge Koeltl for  
resentencing, citing the comments as well as assertions by federal  
prosecutors that Ms. Stewart had committed perjury and abused her  
position as a lawyer.

In 2010, Judge Koeltl sentenced Ms. Stewart to 10 years in prison,  
ruling that she had lied and abused her position and writing that her  
statements indicated she viewed her 28-month sentence as trivial and  
that the sentence, therefore, did not “provide adequate deterrence.”

Ms. Stewart’s lawyers argued that her reference to standing on her  
head was simply an expression of relief. And, they added, when she  
used the phrase “I would do it again,” she meant only that she would  
again represent Mr. Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in 1995 of  
plotting to blow up buildings and tunnels in New York City.

But prosecutors wrote in a brief that Judge Koeltl had interpreted  
Ms. Stewart’s comments accurately, adding that he had “observed a  
defiant and energized Stewart lecturing the government about its  
purported overreaching and mocking the sentence imposed.”

More information about the Marxism mailing list