A federal judge in New York re-sentenced Lynn Stewart to 10 years and one month in prison Thursday. The decision comes after five years of legal proceedings for the woman who crossed the line from defense attorney to terrorist intermediary.
Stewart was initially convicted in 2005 for helping her client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, relay messages from his prison cell to other terrorists. At the time, Rahman, also known as the Blind Sheikh, was serving a prison sentence for his role in numerous terrorist plots. According to the government's evidence at trial:
"Abdel Rahman, a blind Islamic scholar and cleric, was the leader of [a] seditious conspiracy, the purpose of which was "jihad," in the sense of a struggle against the enemies of Islam. Indicative of this purpose, in a speech to his followers Abdel Rahman instructed that they were to "do jihad with the sword, with the cannon, with the grenades, with the missile…. against God's enemies." Abdel Rahman's role in the conspiracy was generally limited to overall supervision and direction of the membership, as he made efforts to remain a level about the details of individual operations. However, as a cleric and the group's leader, Abdel Rahman was entitled to dispense fatwas, religious opinions on the holiness of an act, to members of the group sanctioning proposed courses of conduct and advising them whether the acts would be in furtherance of jihad."
As we previously reported, she appealed the conviction and her two-year sentence to a federal court. That court denied the appeal, noting that the trial court's "breathtakingly low sentence of 2 1/3 years…trivializes Stewart's extremely serious conduct."
Stewart was facing up to 30 years in prison and prosecutors had asked that she get at least 15. While the 10 year sentence is a far cry from the maximum, it should send a message that, while zealous advocacy on behalf of a criminal defendant is integral to the criminal justice system, attorneys must be wary not to cross the line when defending those accused of terrorism.