Federal Judge John G Koeltl passed down sentence today, 15 July 2010 on the defendant, Lynne Stewart: 120 months incarceration in the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution Connecticut on five counts to be served concurrently.
The 70 year old breast cancer survivor with a cancer now in remission has multiple health issues impacting on an already vulnerable and aging body. Lynne Stewart who has spent thirty years defending poor, oppressed, unpopular clients is to spend the next ten years of her life away from her husband and life partner, her adult children and numerous grandchildren.
Judge Koeltl in a lengthy statement told the now disbarred woman lawyer who started her professional career as a teacher in Harlem that his ruling followed the dictum of the appellate court which demanded he review the 28 months sentence given her one year ago for the crimes committed ten years ago. Today, he today reversed his previous sentence and in compliance with directives from the appellate court sentenced Lynne Stewart to ten years in prison.
Over and over again in his remarks leading up to the sentencing, Judge Koeltl used the term “terrorist enhancement.” Those warning words bring up the specter of some of the nastiest aspects of the Cold War and its present re-incarnation in the Patriot Act which by expanding law enforcement’s surveillance and investigative powers represents a significant threat to civil liberties. Read the official text… “Uniting and Strengthening America by providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.
The Lynne Stewart case has been lifted out of the obscurity it might have had if the events of Nine Eleven had not transpired. Past and the now present White House Administration believe that by surrendering our freedoms, we are buying national security. Fighting terror has become a buzz word allowing us to accept heightened police presence and militarization domestically and abroad has kept us in two costly and unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan .
The verdict in Lynne Stewart’s Case should tell us that our country’s policies are still set in a miasma of confusion and controversy. Human security means full employment, jobs and health care for all, affordable housing, mass transit, improved and restored national infrastructure, education for all, the welfare of the old and the protection of the young –these are the solid bases for true national security. What rankles most in the Patriot Act are those provisions that sweep normal criminal law enforcement under the looser procedural standards for fighting terror. It’s important and vital that the state be able to fight terror. No one disputes this. But it’s equally important that the state not use the war on terror to gut the warrant requirement or undermine the First Amendment.
But the state must recognize that poverty is a weapon of mass destruction that brings terror to millions of our people; recognize that banks and financial institutions under whatsoever names they now call themselves are harbingers of terror with foreclosures, plant closings, environmental devastations like the BP Gulf of Mexico debacle.
The death sentence imposed on a seventy year old woman has sent a message that the term “terror”, “terrorism” can be used to stifle dissent, to silence voices, to let the powers that be trample over the rights of ordinary citizens. Those of us in the peace movement, the anti-war movement, the anti-racism movement, the environmental movement, the movement for a just immigration policy must continue our struggles. This is what Lynne Stewart wants us to do. Her sacrifice will not be in vain if we continue these vital grass roots movement for a just and humane society.
We owe that to our beloved Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer. We got your back, Lynne. La luta continua!
UN Rep for the Women’s International Democratic Federation
Founding member of the GRANNY PEACE BRIGADE
Awarded the Paul Robeson Award by Actors Equity Association