Lynne Stewart Released From Prison Due To Her Failing Health

225px-Lynne_StewartLynne F. Stewart, the former defense lawyer convicted of assisting terrorism, reportedly has been released from prison so that she can live out the final months of her life with her family. She is dying of cancer is believed to have less than 18 months to live.

200px-Omar_Abdel-RahmanAs someone who has handled terrorism cases as defense counsel and worked under the often abusive limitations placed by the Justice Department on counsel, I was concerned over the prosecution of Stewart and felt that she received a very heavy sentence of 10 years for passing along messages between Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to blow up landmarks in New York City, and his supporters.

Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) can be used to harass prisoners and inhibit defense efforts. Nevertheless, Stewart clearly did violate those provisions. Stewart was implicated with interpreter Mohamed Yousry, an adjunct professor in Middle East studies at York College CUNY, and postal clerk Ahmed Sattar. She was was accused of passing along Rahman’s blessing for a resumption of terrorist operations to al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya members in Egypt after they inquired whether they should continue to honor a ceasefire agreement with the Egyptian government. The indictment detailed knowing efforts to trick the guards including an alleged statement by Stewart that she should get an award for acting. Notably, a material support charge was dismissed in 2003 but the Justice Department continued to press for a conviction and recharged her (and secured a conviction for) obstruction of justice and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism. It is clear that she lost her objectivity in her relationship with the defendant and violated the SAMs. The question was the need for a ten year sentence, particularly after her defense raised questions regarding the translation of the key communication.

I was also surprised by the initial denial of a compassionate release by Judge John G. Koeltl of United States District Court in August. Stewart gave the court a 12-page handwritten letter to the judge saying that she did not want to die in prison, “a strange and loveless place. I want to be where all is familiar — in a word, home.” Koeltl turned her down.

It was clearly a valid and compelling motion but Koeltl insisted that he would do nothing unless the Bureau of Prisons made the motion. Why? The case seemed to be another example of how judges invest these agencies, particularly the Justice Department, with unilateral control on such questions. Medical reports showed Stewart’s cancer had spread to her lungs, lymph system and bones.

Finally, the BOP made such a motion given the medical record showing that Stewart has a life expectancy of less than 18 months.

I had some interaction with Stewart in an earlier criminal case in New York. She was known as someone who felt strongly about the rights of the accused, though she also had a bit of a reckless reputation. However, she committed her life to fighting for the rights of the accused. She deserves to be home with her family in these final months.

85 thoughts on “Lynne Stewart Released From Prison Due To Her Failing Health”

  1. Yikes! Now the comments are all back!

    I think I need a double shot of Prestone bartender.

  2. Folks. As you can see, Mr. Turley posted over here while I was writing the above. Sorry for any confusion.

  3. Folks, Mr. Turley explains the deletions over on the Sotomayer post. I admit I’m at a loss for words but it is probably a worthwhile lesson. Having to watch what you say, certainly inhibits a discussion and makes one think more seriously about …. stuff

    FYI: one of those comments conceded the argument about asset tests for SNAP to David. along with documentation. I’m most sorry that that has been pulled. It was astonishing piece of information that pretty well breaks my liberal bleeding heart. And it was straight from the offices of my very wonderful liberal congressperson.

    I then got a corrective note that I thought was inappropriate coming from one adult to another. My apologies – I should have taken it more seriously.

    Sorry for attempting to make any sort of an explanation here, but I didn’t want you to think I had gone off on some kind of LuckyLarry rant.

  4. Hmmmmm? What’s the deal with the disappearing comments? About 4 or 5 of mine have gone kaput.

    Publish rules please.

    1. PDM,

      I have deleted a number of personal comments from you and ask that you comply with our policy of avoiding personal attacks and name calling. This site strives to offer an exception to the types of personal attacks common on other sites under a civility rule. We just went through a bad bout with such a tit-for-tat. Name calling and personal characterizations undermine the merit of the arguments and degrade the dialogue on the site. This rule is not for everyone, but I hope that you will understand our desire to avoid this type of discussion. It is certainly not for everyone but we like the civility rule and the atmosphere that it preserves. I would appreciate your help in maintaining that line.

      Jonathan Turley

  5. Nick, you are responsible for your own promises. Not mine. And as far as I know, you have not been given a shiny badge and an orange patrol boy’s belt.

    Chris* Almighty. Betwen hysterics over someone bothering Turley on New Year’s Eve and boo-hooing to him about being picked on – I swear I sometimes think you are a six year old.

    I guess that is better than calling you a pri………

  6. pdm, I can take the sarcasm. I can give and take it. But, my comment was well intended. That said, I know sometimes the road to hell is paved w/ good intentions. I’m simply trying to uphold a promise.

  7. Dear Mr. Hall Monitor. I am heartily sorry that I have spoken out of turn. Here is my teacher’s note. Do I have to stay after school?

  8. David, it appears you are correct about the asset test. The 2008 Farm Bill recommended that states lift the asset test. Most did so. Their reasoning was that they wanted to encourage people to save so that they can manage to lift themselves out of poverty. Maybe you’ll read the pdf, It is informative and provides a chart of which states lifted the asset test.

    http://cfed.org/assets/scorecard/2013/rg_AssetLimits_2013.pdf

    Further I used my state’s benefit calculator (you all could probably do the same) and filled it out as though I was a single household, had no income, no rent or mortgage, paid $700/mo in taxes and insurance, and had $999,999. in assets. My estimated benefit was $189.

    Ordinarily, I would offer my apologies to David. But I think he has been an insufferable pri*k with his comments about “hand holding” and “obsession” and seemingly lack of research, when I was trying to get some answers to scenarios that he posed.

    1. pdm wrote: “Ordinarily, I would offer my apologies to David. But I think he has been an insufferable pri*k with his comments about “hand holding” and “obsession” and seemingly lack of research, when I was trying to get some answers to scenarios that he posed.”

      I apologize for those few offending comments. I will try to refrain from such in the future. Nevertheless, you might consider that my comments were a carefully measured response to your very personal attacks toward me which accused me of being dishonest and accused me of possibly being a tax fraud as well as a granny-starver.

      pdm wrote: “David, I don’t think you are being honest. … David, I think you are either hanging out with a bunch of tax frauds (called crooks and a man of such high moral turpitude such as yourself should report them) or you are in the business of writing scare stories for Faux “News” and the TeaParty newsletter. Or maybe you are a “Better See Saul” tax lawyer. Whatever it is that is that you are playing with – your accounts are not reporting real life. It is pretty disgusting that you are playing the heartless granny-starver when your beloved Tea Party wants to cut $47 billion from food stamps. Please give us a warning the next time you tell us how you are feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless so I can run and get my vomit bowl.”

      I’m glad you found the answers to your questions, and thank you for sharing them with us. I hope in the future we can speak with respect toward one another. We all have different life experiences and can learn from each other.

  9. I’ve got a comment snagged in WordPress, anybody available to free it? It’s a link to the Wisconsin SSI site that clearl states you cannot have more than $2,000 in assets if on SSI.

  10. Many of the people/corporations who abuse the tax laws/use tax loopholes/evade paying taxes are people/corporations who can well afford to pay them.

  11. David.
    If she is on SSDI, she is allowed to have assets in the bank or elsewhere. If she is on SSI, she cannot have that much in her account. If she has SSDI it indicates she worked long enough to have the credits she needs to get SSDI. It is not welfare, she obviously paid into the system to be eligable for SSDI.

    1. Annie wrote: “If she is on SSDI, she is allowed to have assets in the bank or elsewhere. If she is on SSI, she cannot have that much in her account. If she has SSDI it indicates she worked long enough to have the credits she needs to get SSDI. It is not welfare, she obviously paid into the system to be eligable for SSDI.”

      From what I understand, it is SSDI. She worked for a few years into her mid-twenties before she was put on SSDI for having panic attacks. Her income from SSDI is based upon her work history up to that point in time. She has been on SSDI ever since she was in her mid twenties, and she is now in her mid fifties. It is a government entitlement, not welfare, an expense carried by the taxpayers currently living. She qualifies for both housing assistance and food assistance. I think housing assistance and food assistance is considered welfare because the value of it is based upon need. Although food stamps won’t pay for cat food, she is able to buy cat food to care for a cat, and she also was able to pay a vet to spay her cat.

      I am just relaying facts about how our government system works in regards to people like her who are not part of the workforce. I am a bit surprised at how some people on this blog are skeptical of this example.

  12. I will add an additional thought. There is a culture of entitlements, where some people know what entitlements are and they are savvy about how to get them. There are others in society who have no clue, and even if they qualified, they would never apply for them. That divide in society is exhibited by the observation that there are some people in the middle class who know what a Florida Driver’s License is but they have never heard of a Florida ID. People in the lower class culture of Florida all know what a Florida ID is. It would be nice if we could get rid of this class system, but the laws keep perpetuating this class system by carving out different rules that apply differently to different people.

  13. DavidM:

    I rather doubt that society is awash in entrepreneurs who sold thriving businesses and now live on the proceeds while collecting SNAP benefits. We draft regulations to cover the usual case, recognizing that there will be people who receive benefits to which they are not entitled, but understanding as well that we cannot deny needed assistance to the many due to the avarice of the few.

    1. Mike Appleton wrote: “I rather doubt that society is awash in entrepreneurs who sold thriving businesses and now live on the proceeds while collecting SNAP benefits.”

      I agree. It would be rare. Nick was telling about a case he heard about and wondered about my thoughts about it being possible. I was just trying to share about the feasibility of it happening based upon the rules for entitlements, not claim that it is a common practice. I’ve never seen it.

  14. David, this asset limit needs clarification and I have a call into my congressperson’s office. Discussion and research will follow.

    BUT, let’s start with this, you cannot sell a million dollar business and stick it in an IRA. There are annual limits. So what’s you next plan?

    You’re correct, you didn’t say you knew the 5000 acre guy – you said:

    “I know people with thousands of dollars in the bank who get a food subsidy every month. ”

    Last I knew a multi million dollar home would owe property taxes. Does the Springsteen tax shelter eliminate those?.

    1. pdm wrote: you said: “I know people with thousands of dollars in the bank who get a food subsidy every month.”

      You seem overly obsessed with this subject. As an example, I know a woman who has $13,000 in the bank from an accident insurance settlement. She drives a Mercedes Benz and receives Social Security disability and food stamps. That’s all legal. She has recently had back surgery at the taxpayers expense. She was placed in a rehabilitation center at taxpayers expense and a nurse paid for by taxpayers put the bed up too high and hurt her. She is trying now to sue for damages. All of this is legal. This is one person that I know right now who has thousands of dollars in the bank and gets a food subsidy every month.

      Good catch about the IRA contribution limit, so lousy suggestion on my part because I did not think about the limits to contributions. However, it doesn’t change the fact that most households do not apply under the asset limit rules.

      Just call the food stamp office and ask questions about whether you have to declare a pension setup for retirement with non-taxable distributions as an asset.

  15. davidm2575 wrote:

    I agreed with you, that based upon the new information you provided, she would fall under Medicare. So my previous guess about what she might be doing has been retracted.

    And then david2575 followed up with this beaut:

    “Did she wait until retirement age to become a terrorist or was she involved for a long time and only got caught late in life?” – davidm2575

    Cheap shots in the form of questions. Couldn’t just admit the error and move on…

    ====

    Editorial

    The lawyer’s remarks after her conviction in a terrorism-related case didn’t justify a big increase in her prison sentence.

    March 08, 2012

    http://articles.latimes.com/2012/mar/08/opinion/la-ed-stewart-20120308

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