A cherished show of support

December 8, 2009

Outspoken defense attorney and civil liberties advocate Lynne Stewart reported to jail November 19 after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of her conviction and ordered her bond revoked.

Stewart was convicted along with two others in 2005 for allegedly relaying a message from her client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, to the media in 2000. Although even prosecutors agreed that her actions never caused any violence, after the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration made Stewart a target in order to appear "tough on terrorism."

In rejecting her appeal, the federal court not only ordered Stewart to begin serving her sentence immediately, but sent her case back to the original trial judge with instructions that her 28-month prison sentence be "reconsidered"--a warning to Judge James Koeltl to impose a much harsher sentence. Koeltl has set a formal re-sentencing for April 22--in the meanwhile, the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee is asking activists for their help in organizing around this case.

Even as she reported to jail, Stewart remained defiant, telling supporters, "This is the day they executed Joe Hill, and his words were, 'Don't mourn me, organize.' I hope that will be the message that I send, too." Here, we reprint a letter Lynne sent to supporters.

Dear sisters and brothers, friends and supporters:

Well, the moment we all hoped would never come is upon us. Goodbye to a good cup of coffee in the morning, a soft chair, the hugs of grandchildren and the smaller pleasures in life. I must say I am being treated well, and that is due to my lawyer team and your overwhelming support.

While I have received "celebrity" treatment here in MCC [Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York]--high visibility--conditions for the other women are deplorable. Medical care, food, education, recreation are all at minimal levels. If it weren't for the unqualified bonds of sisterhood and the commissary, it would be even more dismal.

My fellow prisoners have supplied me with books and crosswords, a warm (it is cold in here most of the time) sweatshirt and pants, treats from the commissary, and, of course, jailhouse humor. Most important many of them know of my work and have a deep reservoir of--can I say it?--respect.

I continue to answer the questions put to me by them. I also can't resist commenting on the TV news or what is happening on the floor--a little LS politics always! (Smile) to open hearts and minds!

Lynne Stewart arrives for her re-sentencing hearing in federal court
Lynne Stewart arrives for her re-sentencing hearing in federal court

Liz Fink, my lawyer leader, believes I will be here at MCC-NY for a while--perhaps a year before being moved to prison. Being in jail is like suddenly inhabiting a parallel universe, but at least I have the luxury of time to read! Tomorrow, I will get my commissary order, which may include an AM/FM radio, and be restored to WBAI and music (classical and jazz).

We are campaigning to get the bladder operation (scheduled before I came in to MCC) to happen here in New York City. Please be alert to the Web site in case I need some outside support.

I want to say that the show of support outside the courthouse on Thursday as I was "transported" is so cherished by me. The broad organizational representation was breathtaking, and the love and politics expressed (the anger, too) will keep me nourished through this.

Organize--Agitate, Agitate, Agitate! And write to me and others locked down by the Evil Empire.

Love Struggle,
Lynne Stewart

What you can do

Visit the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee Web site for updates on Lynne's case, or to make a donation to her legal defense. For updates or information on Facebook, join the Free Lynne Stewart! Facebook group.

Letters to the judge in support of Lynne can be sent to: Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, 350 Broadway, Suite 700, New York, NY 10013. Please address letters to: Honorable John G. Koeltl, United States District Judge, Southern District of New York, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007. (Be sure to send letters to the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, and not directly to the judge, or they will not be considered.)

Letters to Lynne can be sent to: Lynne Stewart #53504-054, MCC-NY, 150 Park Row, New York, NY 10007.

Further Reading

From the archives