NY ex-lawyer surrenders to serve prison term

AP News
Posted: Nov 19, 2009 6:51 PM

Promising "you haven't seen the last of me," a 70-year-old disbarred lawyer convicted in a terrorism case surrendered to U.S. marshals Thursday to begin serving her prison term after a New York appeals court upheld her conviction.

A smiling Lynne Stewart walked with several dozen supporters to a collection of cameras on her way into U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Thursday, shaking a fist in the air to chants of "Free Lynne Stewart."

"It's very hard to feel downhearted today," she said. "I can take whatever they dish out. I am not going to back off ever."

Stewart said she would become a jailhouse lawyer to the extent her disbarment will allow, helping other inmates with their legal fights.

Stewart was ordered a day earlier to begin serving her two-year, four-month sentence. She was convicted in 2005 of charges that she let a Muslim extremist client convicted in a plot to blow up New York City landmarks communicate with followers. She was sentenced in 2006.

The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan on Tuesday upheld the conviction and rejected a request just minutes before she entered the courthouse Thursday to further delay her incarceration. She had been free on bail pending appeal.

As soon as she heard her last chance to stay free was taken away, she announced to the crowd: "OK. We're going to prison folks."

The appeals court had also directed Stewart's sentencing judge to consider whether she should receive a harsher sentence after determining whether she lied to the jury during her trial.

Stewart was convicted of letting her client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, communicate with a man who relayed messages to senior members of an Egyptian-based terrorist organization. Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence after he was convicted 14 years ago in conspiracies to blow up New York City landmarks and assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Mohammed Yousry, a translator who worked for her, also surrendered Thursday to begin serving his 20-month prison term. A third co-defendant, Ahmed Abdel Sattar, a former postal worker, was already serving a 24-year sentence after he was convicted of more serious charges.

Stewart has remained defiant since she was arrested in 2002 on charges of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, defrauding the government and making false statements. She was convicted of those charges.

She maintained her innocence Thursday, calling her prosecution a "warning shot to lawyers" who might decide to vigorously represent suspected terrorists and other unsavory clients.

As she walked to the courthouse, the lawyer who fought breast cancer several years ago said: "I'm fine. ... I tell my kids I don't have cancer. I'm going to come out."

She was accompanied by lawyers inside the courthouse, where she told several reporters just before she went through a heavy door and into custody: "You haven't seen the last of me."


Associated Press Writer Tom Hays contributed to this story.