A judge had resentenced a 70-year-old civil rights lawyer to 10 years in prison for letting a jailed Egyptian sheik communicate with his radical followers.
Federal Judge John Koeltl sentenced Lynne Stewart in Manhattan after she pleaded with him to reimpose the two-year, four-month sentence he had originally given her in 2006. She said she has been diminished since her November imprisonment.
An appeals court had ordered a new sentencing, saying the judge needed to consider whether she committed perjury. Koeltl says she did and he says she lacked remorse after her first sentencing.
About 100 supporters of Stewart marched past the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan on Wednesday evening, carrying signs that said "Free Lynne Stewart" and "We Stand With Lynne Stewart." They then walked around the corner to the federal prison where Stewart is held and rallied there.
In court papers, prosecutors have asked for Stewart to receive a "severe sentence" of between 15 and 30 years in prison, saying she had carried out a plan to smuggle terrorist messages from Abdel-Rahman to his Middle East followers and had engaged in "extraordinarily severe criminal conduct."
"In short," they said, "Stewart and her co-defendants provided material support to a terrorist organization and to the commission of a terrorism crime."
Defense lawyers wrote that Koeltl should not increase Stewart's sentence. They noted that several 2nd Circuit judges had called for Stewart to receive a long prison term.
"We are angry, and rightly so, at defendants who are convicted of terrorism-related crimes," they wrote. "The judges of the Second Circuit are clearly angry. Many of them believe that Ms. Stewart deserves a lengthy sentence. But Ms. Stewart's sentence is not before them."
The lawyers said only Koeltl knew what was best after presiding over the nearly nine-month trial.
Stewart wrote the judge a nine-page letter seeking leniency and declaring, "I am not a traitor." After some soul searching, she wrote, she had concluded that a careless over-devotion to her clients was her undoing.