By JEFF MACKLER
Jeff Mackler is the West Coast coordinator of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.
Lynne Stewart will be free! On Dec. 31, Federal District Court Judge John Koeltl ordered that the crusading attorney be released from prison. The judge’s order stated, “The defendant’s terminal medical condition and very limited life expectancy constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons that warrant the requested reduction” in the time she must serve of her sentence.
According to Lynne Stewart’s attorney Bob Boyle, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at long last had requested that Judge Koeltl grant Lynne compassionate release. Koeltl had previously stated in court that if the BOP made such a recommendation he would be inclined to approve it post haste.
As we go to press, Lynne’s husband, Ralph Poynter, was with Lynne at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. Lynne should be released into Ralph’s care, and is expected to reside in Brooklyn at the home of her son.
To date prison medical experts predict that Lynne’s Stage 4 cancer may allow her some 12-18 months to live. But Sloan Kettering Hospital has pledged to take charge of Lynne’s care immediately and to do their best to retard this metastasized cancer and extend her life even longer.
A million thanks to everyone who joined the international effort to press the BOP to grant compassionate release. We have always believed in Lynne’s total innocence and fought against the malicious 10-year sentence imposed on her for faithfully representing her client, the “blind sheik” Omar Abdel Rachman, an Egyptian cleric who was similarly a victim of a U.S. government frame-up on terrorism charges.
Lynne was originally convicted on charges of conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism stemming from her release of a press statement on behalf of Rachman. This alleged violation of a government-issued Special Administrator Measure (SAM), even if valid, usually carries with it the most minor of punishments—perhaps a letter of reprimand from a government official and a ban on attorney-client visits for a few months. In Lynne’s case, Judge Koeltl, who originally had sentenced her to 28 months in prison in 2005, extended the sentence to 10 years after federal prosecutors appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals with the argument that 28 months was too lenient.
Lynne should not have served a single day in prison. Having made that clear, her impending freedom will be nevertheless be our collective victory. Having her home, safe, and in the loving care of family and friends is the best that we could have hoped for in these very difficult times when civil liberties are being trashed as never before in recent memory.
Lynne’s release did not come easy, Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people demanded it—repeatedly calling, writing, and e-mailing the BOP and Justice Department head Eric Holder. We celebrate this victory and wish everyone well for a fighting New Year, where we must continue the battle for justice for all political prisoners and all who suffer the plagues of oppression that the U.S. government spreads around the world.