The Veil Is Lifted, The Gloves Are Off: the outrageous sentencing of Lynne Stewart
by Elaine Brower
The government had alleged that Lynne had facilitated communication between a man she was defending in court, fundamentalist Islamic cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, and people in Egypt. The judge in Lynne’s trial sentenced her to 28 months in prison. An appeal to the conviction and sentencing resulted in a different judge upholding the conviction, while ordering a re-sentencing that was not “trivial”, since Lynne had “indicated a lack of remorse”. After her sentencing, her prosecutor praised the work of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force for its role in the persecution of Lynne Stewart, and thanked U.S. Bureau of Prisons for its assistance.
On July 15, radical lawyer and War Criminals Watch Advisory Board member Lynne Stewart was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In February 2005, Lynne had been convicted on 7 counts of “conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, and defrauding the U.S. government”.
Words Lynne Stewart spoke after her original conviction still ring true: “I see myself as being a symbol of what the people rail against when they say our civil liberties are eroded. This case could be, I hope it will be, a wakeup call to all of the citizens of this country and all of the people who live here that you can’t lock up the lawyers. You can’t tell the lawyers how to do their job. You’ve got to let them operate. And I will fight on. I am not giving up. I know I committed no crime. I know what I did was right.”
Today, Thursday, July 15, at United States District Court in downtown Manhattan, around the corner from where I work, I witnessed the sentencing hearing of attorney Lynne Stewart. I only had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Stewart five years ago, along with Ralph, her jovial and loving husband. I never had the honor of her defending me, but during the course of the last 5 years, I met many people who did. The courtroom today was packed, leaving 2 overflow rooms, which were also filled to capacity.
Walking into the marble and mahogany building, which I am no stranger to since I work next door, gave me a never before eerie feeling. A bronze “Lady Justice” 2 story high statue sat in the main entrance way, greeting everyone who entered. But it did not give me comfort, it only once again reminded me of the many icons of worship this country erects to deflect the true nature of the beast underneath. I thought to myself “I’d love to hang a huge banner right in the middle of her 2 story chest with a big $ sign!”
Sitting in the elaborate overflow room, with all of Lynn’s supporters, then gave me comfort. Watching Lynne on the 2 screens in front of the room was very sad. She looked weak, pale and broken. She pleaded for the court’s mercy by presenting her statement to the judge. In it, she declared that she no longer had a relationship with her grandson, who could not visit her any longer in the horrible prison. She said she felt alone, and withdrawn. Only when her friends and family came to visit for one hour a week did she rejuvenate for a short period, but then would retreat back into somberness and sadness. At one point she choked up when saying that if the court decided to sentence her to anytime longer than the original 28 months, it would be a like imposing the “death sentence”. She reiterated that many times, in so many different ways. She threw herself at the “mercy” of the judge.
I thought to myself this is not the Lynne Stewart that I knew, if only for a short time. She was always vibrant and unafraid. She stood for true justice for the people who went unrepresented in a system that would make every attempt to smash them. Why was she begging for mercy? It broke my heart.
Then the US Attorney stood up and for 30 minutes recounted the details of the entire trial, repeating hundreds of times “we were attacked on 9/11″, and “Ms. Stewart gave comfort to Islamic terrorists.” These references were the cornerstone of the prosecution’s argument, and he couldn’t say it enough. In every way, he connected Lynne with the terrorist “murder groups”, and in reality made her the real terrorist. He said “the government trusted her as a lawyer, and she shouldn’t have been trusted.” He referred endless times to the DVD of her press conference prior to her remand to prison in 2009, and referenced her statements that she had “no remorse.”
Lucky for me I was in an overflow room. I commented, loudly, how I hoped this guy would get the pox, and I wasn’t alone. People booed, and said he better not come into their neighborhoods. How could he sleep at night? I would be embarrassed to be in his shoes. Is there no dignity?
Well, I will answer my own rhetorical questions. There is no dignity in this system. There is no justice in this system. There never was, and never will be. There is only hatred, fear, and an elite system of injustice. The judge is only a puppet of the state and did what he was told to do. The prosecutor is a prostitute and regurgitates enough bullshit to make people afraid enough to go home and lock their doors so they too won’t wind up like Lynne Stewart. When she was wrongfully sentenced to 10 years behind bars, there should have been a riot in the courtroom. Instead, everyone left.
Folks, it has always been like this. I didn’t live through the McCarthy era, and was happy I didn’t. I am a child of the 60’s and the radicalness of the 70’s. I thought, in my naivte, that this country stood for something good, and protected freedom of speech, the rights of people of color to live and work without the threat of police oppression, and most of all, it was a nation that was accepting and tolerant of those who came here from all over the world to experience the “American dream.”
What a bunch of crap. It has always been a bad system. Sometimes there would be breakthroughs in civil rights, or womens’ rights, but those where aberrations. Not the norm. The system would again rise up to take it all away, because it wasn’t meant to be fair and just for all people, only those who are the elite in this society. It always brings me back to how this country was founded, on the blood of those who already lived here.
And so it goes, we see the true face of American justice. Take a good look while the veil is lifted, because it will be dropped again, and you will be fooled into thinking if only we had more hope.