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February 11, 2005

Lynne F. Stewart Found Guilty. Her Defense?

Lawyer is Guilty of Aiding Terror

In a startlingly sweeping verdict, Ms. Stewart was convicted on all five counts of providing material aid to terrorism and of lying to the government when she pledged to obey federal rules that barred her client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, from communicating with his followers. Her co-defendants, Ahmed Abdel Sattar and Mohamed Yousry, were also convicted of all the charges against them....

After a trial that lasted more than seven months, the jurors announced their verdict after 12 days of deliberations that spanned four weeks. In a case watched by lawyers nationwide, the jurors were persuaded that Ms. Stewart had crossed a professional line, from vigorously representing her client to conspiring in his followers' plans to launch violence in Egypt....

Ms. Stewart was convicted on two counts of conspiring to provide material aid to terrorists, by making the views and instructions of Mr. Abdel Rahman available to his followers in the Islamic Group, an organization in Egypt with a history of terrorist violence. She was also convicted of three counts of perjury and defrauding the government for flouting federal prison rules that barred Mr. Abdel Rahman, a blind Islamic cleric, from communicating with anyone outside his federal prison in Minnesota except his lawyers and his wife....

Ms. Stewart's troubles arose from her work over a decade to defend Mr. Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for inspiring a thwarted 1993 plot to bomb the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and other New York landmarks....

The jury appeared to have focused on the evidence that clearly showed that Ms. Stewart had knowingly violated the legal letter of prison rules aimed at silencing the sheik. "She thought she could blow off the rules that apply to everyone else because she's a lawyer," said Anthony Barkow, the assistant United States attorney who made the government's final argument to the jury....

There was little dispute about the central facts in the case. After Mr. Abdel Rahman was sentenced in 1996 to life in prison, his followers issued a series of threats against the United States demanding his release. Prosecutors imposed rules, known as special administrative measures, that barred the sheik, already held in solitary confinement, from communicating with anyone outside prison but his lawyers and his wife.

Ms. Stewart repeatedly signed documents in which she agreed to uphold the rules.

She brought a letter containing messages from Islamic Group members to a meeting with the sheik in the prison in Rochester, Minn., in May 2000. She received a statement from the sheik and on June 14 called a reporter in Cairo and read him the statement. The sheik said he was withdrawing support for a cease-fire the Islamic Group had observed for three years in Egypt. The group never canceled the cease-fire.

Testifying on her own behalf, Ms. Stewart said the press release was part of a legal strategy that involved provoking the government if necessary in order to keep the sheik in the public eye. Ms. Stewart said she was acting within an unwritten lawyer's "bubble" in the prison rules that allowed her to defend her client as she thought best.

So her defense is that she's bound by "unwritten rules" which contradict actual written rules. Well, that clears that up.

Posted by Jeff at February 11, 2005 12:56 PM

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