The Sentencing of Lynne Stewart

The Sentencing of Lynne Stewart
by Michael Steven Smith, in MR Zine
21 July 2010

“At all times throughout history the ideology of the ruling class is the ruling ideology.” — Karl Marx

Lynne Stewart is a friend. She used to practice law in New York City. I still do. I was in the courtroom with my wife Debby the afternoon of July 19th for her re-sentencing. Judge John Koeltl buried her alive.

We should have seen it coming when he told her to take all the time she needed at the start when she spoke before the sentence was read. It didn’t matter what she said. He had already written his decision, which he read out loud to a courtroom packed with supporters. It was well crafted. Bulletproof on appeal. He is smart and cautious.

After about an hour into his pronouncement, he came to the buried alive part. He prefaced it by citing the unprecedented 400 letters of support people had sent him, all of which he said he read. He noted Lynne’s three decades of service to the poor and the outcast. He stressed that she is a seventy-year-old breast cancer survivor with high blood pressure and other serious health problems. And then he laid it on her: 120 months.

Everyone in the courthouse divided 120 by 12. He had given her a death sentence, we all thought. She’ll never get out. He almost quadrupled the 28 month sentence he had originally pronounced. She had told him that 28 months was a horizon, that she had hope. But no more.

Lynne’s granddaughter gasped. Then started sobbing. She kept crying even as Judge John Koeltl kept reading. And reading. And reading. It was awful. The sentence was pitiless and cruel. How to understand it?

Lynne’s lawyer Jill Shellow Levine rose after the judge finished. She asked him why. He was candid. He was told to do it by his supervisors, the judges on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This court is an institution of the elite. It is considered the second highest court in America next to the Supreme Court because it presides over the financial center of the empire, not its capital, that is in D.C., but its real capital. This court makes policy and Lynne Stewart was to be made an example of in “the war against terrorism” just as a half a century before, in the same court, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were condemned to death in the war against communism, told that they had caused the deaths of 50,000 U.S. soldiers in the Korean War, and found guilty of the ridiculous charge of “stealing the secret” of the atomic bomb, when there was no secret, it was only a matter of technology. The sentencing Judge Kaufman knew they would leave behind two orphan children, Robert and Michael, ages six and three.

In 1947 George Kennan, the ideological father of the cold war, wrote that the United States had but six per cent of the world’s population and fifty per cent of its wealth. The problem was to keep it. Anti-communism served as the ideological cover the U.S. ruling classes used. But communism ceased to exist after capitalism was restored in the Soviet Union in 1991. A new ideological cover has been constructed in the wake of the September 11th criminal attack on the World Tread Center and the Pentagon: the War against Terror. Nationalist opposition to U.S. economic and foreign policy in parts of the Arab world is no longer led by communists but by fundamentalist Muslims.

Lynne Stewart represented one of them, Sheik Abdel Rahman, who was the leading oppositionist to the U.S.-sponsored Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, which gets more money from America than any other country in the world except Israel. In 1993, at the behest of the Egyptian government, Sheik Rahman was criminally indicted and later convicted of the crime of “sedition” for suggesting to a government informer that rather than blow up New York City landmarks he choose “a military target.” It was on the occasion of a post-conviction prison visit that Lynne helped her client. She released his statement to Reuters press service announcing his withdrawal of support for a ceasefire between his group and the Egyptian government. This was in violation of a Special Administrative Measure (SAMs) that Lynne had agreed to with the U.S. Government. She wasn’t supposed to be a medium for communication between her client and the outside world. She should have challenged the constitutionality of the SAMs, she now realizes, and not just have violated them.

She wasn’t prosecuted for what she did, not under the Clinton administration, nor during the first years of George W. Bush. Then came 9.11. Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft flew into New York City in 2003 and announced Lynne’s indictment on the David Letterman show. The crime? A novel one. Conspiracy to provide material aid to a terrorist organization. What was the material aid? Her client. When Ashcroft did that, as the nation’s highest law enforcement officer, he committed an ethical violation for which any other attorney would have been sanctioned. He made sure that from the very beginning of her ordeal Lynne Stewart never had a chance. Not with the level of fear the government was able to generate and the scare they put into her jury.

In 2006 she was convicted and sentenced. The maximum was 30 years, but thanks to the superb legal work of National Lawyers Guild attorneys Elizabeth Fink and Sarah Kunstler and the outpouring of public support Judge Koeltl gave her 28 months. The government appealed the sentence to their U.S. Court of Appeals. Game over. The selective prosecution of Lynne Stewart was accomplished.

Judge John Walker, George W. Bush’s first cousin, sits on that court. His family made their fortune selling munitions during WWI. He wrote that the 28 months was “shockingly low.” Judge Koeltl was given his orders. The seemingly kindly boyish-looking jurist about whom it was said that he walks to work and looks after an elderly mother — not exactly a sadistic old lady killer — then reversed himself and on the same evidence nearly quadruped the sentence, putting a seventy-year-old grandmother on chemotherapy away for ten years and two years’ probation after that for good measure. This is much more than meanness. It is ideology.

Michael Steven Smith is the co-host of the WBAI radio show Law and Disorder and sits on the Board of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

SCOTT Watch, Phoenix.

Just posted this on our side of the country, too…here’s my lead-in:

Called Commissioner Epps, Dr. Perry, and the US Department of Justice, leaving messages for all. Specifically asked the DOJ to initiate a CRIPA Investigation of the MDOC immediately re: women’s health care.

More people need to do that – call the DOJ and ask for a CRIPA investigation, telling them why. CRIPA is the “Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act”, the DOJ HAS to investigate if given good cause to believe that  a pattern of violating civil rights is occurring (cruel and unusual health care is a constitutional violation that they are responsible for), and the pressure of an investigation may help to save Jamie’s life right now- as well as the other women suffering like her behind those walls.

So, call them, fax the DOJ copies of documents we can pull off line about Jamie’s health care crises, etc. – then they have paper copy in hand, with paper trails leading right to them, which no one can deny. All of us are witnesses, from wherever we are in the world. It’s astonishing to think that the DOJ could claim to be so blind to Mississippi in 2010.

Too bad Holder’s up for the new Supreme Court position. That makes it all the less likely, ironically, that he’ll exhibit courage and liberate or protect anyone right now. So, we need to put the pressure on.

In solidarity with the women in Mississippi’s prisons, from your free friends and radicals in Phoenix. Rock on.

Let’s get Jamie through this, and be sure not to leave any of the other women fighting with her behind. 

Peg 

Jamie Scott Petition for Compassionate Release

Hey folks,

Check out the link to the petition below. Sign it, and please pass it on to others.

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Subject: 2/10/10 Update On Jamie Scott ~ Please Contact The Governor ~ By Sis Marpessa

PLEASE keep on blasting Governor Haley Barbour’s office! Jamie Scott was taken by ambulance to the hospital yesterday and returned to the prison thereafter and  we’ve been told that she is very severely depressed.  We have no official report on what was done to her there but believe that it could at the very least have included her having a dialysis treatment performed.  We have some important organizing updates to share, so please forward and ACT!

The Action Committee for Women in Prison just posted a BRAND NEW petition specific to getting compassionate release for Jamie Scott and we need to get as many people to sign on as quickly as possible, so please go to http://www.facebook.com/l/88ff7;tinyurl.com/yfrj5g6 and SEND IT TO OTHERS.

Peggy Plews of Mississippi Prison Watch did an outstanding appeal to the Mississippi Kidney Foundation at http://www.facebook.com/l/88ff7;mississippiprisonwatch.blogspot.com/2010/02/mississippi-kidney-foundation-appeal.html

 , which includes the following powerful statement:

“It may well be that Jamie’s crisis is the catalyst that gets so much needed focus on the critically and terminally ill in prison; without her voice, countless others may suffer in invisibility. And her example of survival and resistance is an inspiration to other women living and dying there, too.”  Check it out, she was very thorough!

The Women Behind the Wall blogtalk radio program hosted by Mary Ellen and Gloria on 2/9 provided a lot of education and insight from those who could personally testify to being sick inside of those hellholes and the lack of caring offered by the corporations which dole out what passes for medical care, some of which has to come directly from the inmates’ own pockets!  This program featured Mrs. Rasco and Shakeerah Abdul al-Sabuur, paralegal, and is archived at http://www.facebook.com/l/88ff7;www.blogtalkradio.com/4justicenow/2010/02/09/women-behind-the-wall?&utm_source=remail&utm_medium=listener

 

The fantastic San Francisco Bay View continues to be our leading print resource and has posted a wonderful new piece today at the site:  http://www.facebook.com/l/88ff7;www.sfbayview.com/2010/compassionate-release-for-jamie-scott/

 

We’ve added in a new link to the Govs’ assistant and ask that folks please CALL into the governor’s office for maximum effect, but additionally follow-up with e-mails, letters, faxes and anything possible.  Please do something rather than nothing at all!

Thank you so much, everyone!

http://www.facebook.com/l/88ff7;www.freethescottsisters.blogspot.com

 

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BE DIRECT BUT PLEASE BE COURTEOUS — NO YELLING OR CURSING!
IT WILL ONLY TAKE A FEW MINUTES, PLEASE PARTICIPATE!

Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150
Fax: 601-359-3741
(If you reach VM leave msgs, faxes, and please send letters)

Dorothy Kuykendall
Personal Assistant to Gov. Barbour
(601) 359-3150
DKuykendall@governor.http://www.facebook.com/l/88ff7;state.ms.us

 

P. O Box 3150
Jackson, MS 39205

Christopher Epps, Commissioner of Prisons for the State of Mississippi
601-359-5600
CEPPS@mdoc.http://www.facebook.com/l/88ff7;state.ms.us

 

723 North President Street
Jackson, MS 39202
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