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Boardman writes: "The United States has expressed its preference to see a political prisoner suffer and die in prison, all because she didn't take the government's special administrative measures seriously enough."

Imprisoned attorney Lynne Stewart. (photo: Channer TV)
Imprisoned attorney Lynne Stewart. (photo: Channer TV)

Free Lynne Stewart

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

29 June 13


Author's Note: If you search "Lynne Stewart" on RSN, you'll find 22 articles including, most recently, "The Persecution of Lynne Stewart" by Chris Hedges, April 22, 2013.

n the American justice system, even when a prisoner is not sentenced to be executed, the bureaucrats of the U.S. Justice Department's Federal Bureau of Prisons still have extra-judicial ways of making sure a politically-targeted prisoner will die in jail.

This is a recent example: Kathleen Kenney, general counsel for the Bureau of Prisons, informed the husband of a 73-year-old woman who is dying of cancer that her request for "compassionate release" was denied because her "health is improving ... she does not present circumstances considered extraordinary and compelling ... at this time."

That is what Washington attorney Kenney wrote, without apparent irony, to Ralph Poynter, whose wife is incarcerated at the Carswell Federal Medical Center at the Naval Air Station in Fort Worth, Texas. Kenney's letter countermanded the April 26 recommendation of the prison warden that Stewart be released.

How Does a Washington Lawyer Practice Medicine in Texas? Badly.

According to Poynter on, "This claim [by Kenney] is at once cynical and false. Lynne Stewart's cancer continues to spread in her lungs. She remains in isolation as her white blood cell count remains so low that she is at risk for generalized infection. She weakens daily."

Lynne Stewart is 73, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, a librarian, and a lawyer (disbarred by her conviction). She has spent most of her 32-year professional life representing clients who might otherwise have been unprotected from the justice system. She has had cancer for several years. It has metastasized.

The United States case against her is also a cancer, and it too, metastasized. In the 1990s she represented Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as "the blind sheikh," in his defense against terrorist conspiracy charges. Rahman was convicted in 1995 and is now serving a life sentence.

Stewart continued to represent him in appealing his conviction, but she agreed to follow "special administrative measures" imposed by the Justice Department. These measures are bureaucratically imposed conditions that, among other things, allowed the government to monitor Stewart and her client without regard to attorney-client privilege. Stewart acknowledges she sometimes violated these special administrative measures, but the Clinton administration chose not to bring charges against her for those violations.

9/11 Changed the American Legal System, for the Worse

In its deep panic of overreaction to 9/11, the Bush administration first indicted Stewart in 2003. Those charges were dismissed.

Within months, the Bush administration re-indicted her, and publicly proclaimed her guilty. Attorney General John Ashcroft went on the David Letterman Show to announce the indictment, charging her before millions of viewers with conspiring to provide material aid to terrorists. There was no one there to defend her. In ordinary circumstances, Ashcroft's behavior is a serious violation of legal ethics, but he was never sanctioned.

In 2005, after a nine-month trial, Stewart and two co-defendants were convicted. She faced a sentence of up to 30 years. She was already undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Judge John G. Koetl, saying he did not want to impose a death sentence, gave her 28 months. Stewart commented that she could do it standing on her head.

Judge, a Cousin of the President, Ignored His Conflict of Interest

Nevertheless, Stewart appealed the decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, where one of the judges was related to the president. As the Center for Constitutional Rights reported it:

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 [had been] 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 quadrupled the sentence, putting a seventy-year-old grandmother on chemotherapy away for ten years and two years' probation after that for good measure." [emphasis added]

Lynne Stewart has been a federal prisoner since November 19, 2009. She appealed again to the Second Circuit, which upheld her conviction and the re-sentencing that it had ordered. She has not appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Her Thousands of Supporters Include Alice Walker, Richard Falk, Cornel West

In April of this year, Chris Hedges wrote:

"Lynne Stewart, in the vindictive and hysterical world of the war on terror, is one of its martyrs. A 73-year-old lawyer who spent her life defending the poor, the marginalized and the despised, including blind cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, she fell afoul of the state apparatus because she dared to demand justice rather than acquiesce to state sponsored witch hunts.

"And now, with stage 4 cancer that has metastasized, spreading to her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones and lungs, creating a grave threat to her life, she sits in a prison cell at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, where she is serving a 10-year sentence. Stewart's family is pleading with the state for "compassionate release" and numerous international human rights campaigners, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have signed a petition calling for her to be freed on medical grounds."

Bureau of Prisons Has a Record of Showing Little Mercy

In November 2010, Human Rights Watch published a report, taking the U.S. to rask for how seldom it grants any prisoner a compassionate release. Stewart asked for one anyway. The Bureau of Prisons showed her no compassion. Officially, and without credible explanation, the United States has expressed its preference to see a political prisoner suffer and die in prison, all because she didn't take the government's special administrative measures seriously enough.

This is the government we have now, with an opposition party howling for it to be more horrible still. There was a time when it was thought that justice should be done, and justice should be seen to be done. Now it's apparently good enough that what the government alleges to be justice just be seen to be done harshly. We're Americans, we don't do compassion.

Or as Michelle Malkin, articulating state-assimilated heartlessness, put it in early April:

"The jihadists' favorite American lawyer, Lynne Stewart, reportedly has stage-4 breast cancer. Her radical friends - ranging from the 'Party for Socialism and Liberation' and 'Workers World' to Pete Seeger, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal - want her freed from jail. There's only one decent response to the Lynne Stewart Fan Club's criminal-coddling demand: No, hell no."

Is There an American Voice Anymore? And Whose Is It?

This is not the way attorney Kenney would put it, surely. And it's not the way Attorney General Eric Holder would put it, or President Obama. But Malkin's voice is their voice their voice all the same, praising the things they do, in a voice turned up to high screech.

That may be the dominant voice of our day, but it is not the only voice possible. Other possible voices include Lynne Stewart's on June 25, reacting to the denial of her compassionate release and telling her "friends, supporters, comrades" on her web site:

I know we are all disappointed to the marrow of our bones and the depths of our hearts by the news that the Bureaucrats, Kafka like, have turned down my request for compassionate release....

The letter from [attorney Kenney] is flawed, to put it mildly. Both factually and medically it has major problems. We intend to go to court and raise these in front of my sentencing Judge Koeltl. At the first sentencing he responded to a query by one of the lawyers that he didn't want me to die in prison - we'll see if he can now live up to that....

In the meantime, once again, I grieve for my children and grandchildren who love me so much and had such great expectations of enjoying life together again in our beloved NYC and not just trying to, in the prison visiting room. My Ralph, too, whose dedication and love are only exceeded by the work he does on my behalf - but he is a born fighter and although he hurts, it all comes more naturally to him.

"I have been fortunate to have lived a charmed life," she wrote from prison on a recent occasion, grateful for her parents, her children, her husband, and concluding: "I have enjoyed good friends, loved cooking, had poetry and theater for a joy. I could go on and on BUT all of this good fortune has always meant only one thing to me - that I have to fight, struggle to make sure EVERYONE can have a life like mine. That belief is what will always sustain me."

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+45 # fdawei 2013-06-29 22:13
This to-be-expected stone-hearted attitude from Obama's team is so despicable it represents the fascist and brutish reality of the rise of United States of Persecution and decline of any goodness in government and society. Where is the outrage?

God Bless Lynne, her lovely family and supporters.

Is there a way we can make our voices heard against this obscenity?
+50 # Erdajean 2013-06-29 22:25
So Lynne Stewart, whose crime was a life of trying to find justice for defendants who couldn't afford what it costs, in America, will now die in prison -- while --
George W. Bush, who made sure Mrs. Stewart went to prison, is free to smirk in luxury, protected from justice at OUR expense.

Just supposing (hoping) that indeed what goes around comes around, what will eventually befall Mr. Bush? And his "kindly" cousin, Judge Walker? And crap-mouth Elaine Malkin? Can ANYTHING be bad enough?
+15 # Doubter 2013-06-30 14:11
"In its deep panic of overreaction to 9/11, the Bush administration.."
How could they panic from their own actions? All I saw was a successful attempt to panic us and finish off what was left of the US as an at least, semi-free country.
-4 # tigerlille 2013-06-30 14:40
Life makes a lot more sense if you accept the concept of reincarnation. We come here to learn to learn, and accumulating negative experiences is certainly a prime learning experience. This is a very challenging time to be on earth.
+12 # kalpal 2013-06-30 15:29
Under no circumstances will the GOP permit any Republican president or VP to be treated the way Nixon and Agnew had been. Even though both Nixon and Agnew were felons they were Republicans and in DC whatever you do its OK if you are a Republican. 4 deacdes ago the GOP considered itself to be the law and order party but that went by the wayside when both Nixon and Agnew turned out to be felons and the party managed to survive. Reagan's administration was full of felons and few of them were imprisoned. Both Bush reigns were full of criminality and not much happened to them either.
+14 # Trueblue Democrat 2013-06-30 18:49
"This is not the way attorney Kenney would put it, surely. And it's not the way Attorney General Eric Holder would put it, or President Obama."

No, this is not the way they would articulate it, but it's exactly what they countenance. Do you see Obama commuting Lynne Stewart's sentence? Do you see Eric Holder EVER taking the side of the down-trodden or EVER going after the crime-committin g mega-buck banksters or Wall Street swindlers?

No, you do not. So lets not lay this entirely at Bush's doorstep, spoiled rotten brat and gutless coward that he is. There is only one thing preventing Obama from righting this injustice -- his complete lack of integrity.
+55 # ladymidath 2013-06-29 23:02
This kind of story coming out from America is sadly becoming all too common. It seems that Osama Bin Laden got what he wanted. His intention was to destroy America and the western world and that is exactly what is happening. With these cruel and draconian laws that are supposed to protect us, instead are turning our countries into one huge prison. Governments are spying on the very people that they are supposed to protect and human rights violations are becoming the norm. I live in Australia so even though what is happening in America does not directly affect me...yet, I feel the need to stand up and speak for people like Lynne Stewart. Barak Obama needs to do what is right and allow a seriously ill women to go free.
We all of us need to raise our voice so that we can continue to be free.
+24 # mjc 2013-06-30 08:30
The vile actions of our security agencies and some of the courts who specialize in protecting those actions is what can be expected when an individual or a mighty state look into the order to bring it under control, supposedly. But as someone wrote...The abyss looks back. We have become the very authoritarian state we believe threatens us.
+9 # Even 2013-06-30 14:59
Don't blame it on the strawman. It's those who rule the US who wanted to turn the country into a huge prison and oh so conveniently had the WTC attack as an excuse to do it. Obama works for them and will most certainly not do "what is right."
+22 # Regina 2013-06-29 23:22
Amazing -- when a Republican is elected or appointed to some political office, all of a sudden, out of the blue, he (always a "he") becomes entitled to practice medicine. Who needs to waste all those years in med school, followed by an internship and further specialized education? So we have instant know-it-all ob-gyns and cancer experts. No license required.
+28 # tigerlille 2013-06-29 23:34
Are they also letting her suffer in pain, without medical intervention? The pain must be devastating from the condition described. A remarkable woman, and a bright, bright light. Pray for any way you like.
+10 # WBoardman 2013-06-30 11:12
Apparently sha is being treated,
perhaps even reasonably well.

But this IS a federal prison hospital on a naval base,
so she cannot expect the best.

For example, she was scheduled for surgery
when she was incarcerated -- the government
made her wait another 18 months
before she got the surgery.

The government did not respond to my written inquiries.
+6 # Erdajean 2013-06-30 23:42
So, in effect, though the judge did not sentence Lynne Stewart to death, our government did. And that sentence -- refusing her the treatment that might have cured her until it was too late -- amounts to a crucifixion that has gone on for years, instead of a day. And for the same crime -- loving her neighbors, who so desperately needed her help.
+71 # barkingcarpet 2013-06-30 00:04
I am ASHAMED to be an American, and proud of it. Our country is corrupt, and run by psychopathic thugs, which seem intent on squeezing every last penny of profit out of every inch of living Nature, until nothing livable or survivable is left, and they are fools to believe themselves somehow separate from the the laws of Nature.

End the endless wars, end Fracking, Jail the Legitimate Rapist Bankers, end GMO's, Contain Fukushima, End Nukes, Etc, Etc, Etc, and shame on any and all of us for going along with or allowing the insanity to continue for a moment longer.

We CAN create and leave a planet worth living on for everything's future, and time is short....

We choose with every waking dollar, with every flip of the switch, and with every turn of the key....
+15 # czechmate53 2013-06-30 05:34
Hear, hear.
+21 # WestWinds 2013-06-30 00:38
Wow, we really have turned into Stalinist Russia...
+19 # nancyw 2013-06-30 01:26
Despicable. Period.

America the brave. Thinking it's so bad and just. HA!

Women and men without hearts running our country, so smug in their brave new world.

I don't know how to start a petition. Please someone who does, start one for Lynn and put pressure on Obama.
+10 # WBoardman 2013-06-30 11:14
Petition ro free Lynne Steward is here:
+26 # engelbach 2013-06-30 06:14
Lynne Stewart is a hero, and someday, in a saner future, if the earth survives, a monument will be erected to her.

The American Bar Association, like the Catholic Church that relented over its persecution of Joan of Arc, will acknowledge its cowardly failure to protect one of its own, a woman who stood up for the right of counsel to represent her client without the fascistic abrogation of attorney-client privilege.

The government is free to spy on everyone, and the right to confidentiality with one's counsel is doubtful, putting us all in danger — not from imagined and only occasionally real enemies from outside, but from the traitors in all three branches of our own government, from the president on down, who have nakedly betrayed their oaths to defend the Constitution.

Labor Party 2016.
+14 # tedrey 2013-06-30 08:06
Commiseration, decency, justice? Not in their vocabulary. You have to speak language they understand . . . like what's in it for them?
+9 # tomtom 2013-06-30 08:28
And this is only one of millions of injusticias, perpetrated, dailey. It's so subtle, or common, and we're so numbed, we accept it as normal and legitimate. It is horrific and touches/slams everyone. We know, but, we do not act! I think most people need to see a blueprint of the alternative. Some kind of New Declaration of Independance and Bill of Rights,. An outline of how the new system of decision making and application of "Justice and Fairness" will be applied. A fresh approach to "Checks and Balances". The one we have has been usurped beyond recognition. Wholesale murder for profit is unacceptable, Mr. Cheney, Koch Brothers, Boeing, Supreme Court Justices, Mr. President!
+8 # Arden 2013-06-30 08:30
If all people knew the truth, Lynne would be free. If half knew...

My dad would have been 109 on 6/25/13, and he, and my mom, would be appalled at all the travesty going on today.
+4 # RobertMStahl 2013-06-30 08:42
Darwin is run amok. What is it with Chuck, anyway? Why has he turned into Manson? Or, more importantly, how obvious does all this have to become before a bifurcation principle (i.e. a catastrophe) is seen for what it is, and with plenty of evidence if anyone cared.

Right now, propaganda 'moves' military engagements. All wars are fought with boots on the ground. Wikileaks is in court, not Manning (et alia). Assange is locked up and removed from the trial that is his. Cats are being skinned in the news daily identifying the innocent if anyone cared to look. Manning is 'evil' in that he is associated with Wikileaks, all BS. Please read Arthur Silber, Chris Floyd, and Paul Craig Roberts.

Furthermore, AIDS and ecology are the same thing, apparently, for the cognition by the greater populace, the context with either. For AIDS,

i. The Emperor's New Virus?
ii. House of Numbers
iii. Deconstructing the Myth of AIDS by Gary Null

There is no ecology in B Obama's brain supporting fracking and making a 'ground-breakin g' ecological sermon, particularly with all the history 'unpublic' about GUT-CP.

But, this war, now is about Wikileaks, and Stewart reminds me of Indira Singh, lost forever it seems, a prisoner in a similarly insane fashion. However, if the movie Singh made for TV (with CBS, I think) was released, the story of her life now disappeared, then we might see our soldiers who are the most noble.

Everyone loves Lynn Stewart, but love gets us nowhere?
0 # RobertMStahl 2013-06-30 09:17
+9 # gd_radical 2013-06-30 10:13
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,f or theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:11 NIV

On this Sunday, as we move closer to the day in which we celebrate our independence, please do not forget to keep Lynne Stewart and her loved ones in our prayers. For as the Mahatma reminded all of us children of the God long ago, "love and truth will always triumph, always." May our earthly pleas and petitions be heard by her fellow brothers and sisters, to move their hearts so that she may once again live amongst her loved ones during her precious last days. And throughout this land, as the prophet Amos 5:54 once taught, allow "justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!"
+12 # Sandy 2013-06-30 10:49
What a horror show this ongoing persecution of Lynne Stewart is. She is a brave freedom fighter in a nation run by evil short-sighted money grubbers. A better world is possible, but it's not going to be easy.
+10 # Kathymoi 2013-06-30 11:24
One can only hold on to the hope that love is a power greater than hate, and that hope is a power greater than fear, and that truth is a force greater than lies, and that in the long run, love, hope and truth will emerge on the top of the world activities, human activities, activities directed by leaders both in government and in commerce and agriculture--ac tivities to support human life instead of corporate profits.
+9 # heraldmage 2013-06-30 14:26
And these are the people who tout their Christian faith. A faith that at its very core is compassion. They waving it like a flag for political gain but their public record of truth & compassion doesn't reflect the values I was brought up with. Unfortunately, unless We the People can take control of our government, we will have to leave their punishment for crimes against humanity to a much higher court, one where power, wealth & money have no value.
+7 # HCantanhede 2013-06-30 14:59
Amazing how dictatorships are capable of treating human beings when they dare to disagree with their totalitarian ways; and I read the US president has visited Nelson Mandela's cell in South Africa... What a professional hypocrite; my thoughts go to Ms. Stewart as she stands her ground, and does not abandon her ideals.
+10 # kalpal 2013-06-30 15:23
When the US government feels vindictive it will kill you one way or another, slowly or quickly. That is not silly, fanciful talk it is reality in its most painful form.
+13 # AuntieTom 2013-06-30 18:51
The saddest thing of all in this story of injustice is that Lynne Stewart believed in the justice system -- and perhaps even still does!
0 # RobertMStahl 2013-07-01 10:52
Two comments by me have been censored...


An attempt in this very peculiar time about politicians addressing ecology that they were addressing, particularly about fracking being as bad or worse than coal when all the results are tabulated.

Who is in charge of this accounting?
0 # Granny3M 2013-07-09 20:12
What the hell is the matter with this country? Well, I guess we know, but when will it change? When did it become so corrupt that common human decency has gone by the boards? Kathleen Kenney should be beyond ashamed. God help us all, anyone who might be incarcerated by this misnamed Justice Department. America? Land of the 'free?' Not so much, but surely land of the brave.

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