2006_10_lynnestewart2.jpg

Yesterday's decision by a federal judge to sentence controversial lawyer Lynne Stewart to 28 months in prison for charges in helping terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman carry out his message was met by relief from Stewart supporters and overwhelming outcry from the government (which had hoped for a 30 year sentence) and many of the local papers. The Post, Daily News and the Sun all have editorials criticizing Judge Koetl's short sentence. From the Daily News:

Perhaps kindly Judge Koeltl was touched by the sight of Stewart, all her revolutionary bravado fled, blubbering that the end of her legal career "is like a sword in my side." Perhaps he was moved by the defense argument that Stewart, who is 67 and ailing, would die behind bars if a sentence of any reasonable length were imposed.

Or perhaps he just felt that two-something years is enough for the very grave crime she committed. He seemed to say so, on the one hand finding Stewart guilty of "extraordinarily severe criminal conduct" while on the other hand portraying her as a sainted provider of lawyering to "poor, disadvantaged and unpopular clients." Stewart had provided "a public service, not only to her clients but to the nation," Koeltl concluded. Sort of like Mother Teresa with a law degree.

Let us disagree. It will never be known what secret codes might have been in those communications she enabled Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman to dispatch from his cell or how many jihadist plots they resulted in. The sheik was only the man who had plotted to blow up city landmarks and assassinate the president of Egypt. And Lynne Stewart, consciously and knowingly, gave him material assistance. It is jaw-dropping that she ended up standing before a soft touch like Koeltl. From somewhere across the sea, we believe we hear a few terrorists chuckling in delighted satisfaction.

The Sun and Post (which also called Stewart a "smirk jerk" and put her on the cover) also point out that Koetl was appointed to the bench by President Clinton. Mohammed Yousry, the translator used by Stewart, was sentenced to 20 months in prison while Ahmed Abdel Sattar, a postal worker who was found guilty of conspiring to kidnap and kill people in another country, was sentenced to 24 years.

Stewart will be appealing the case, but she did say if she had to serve the 28 month sentence, “I could do it standing on my head.” The US Attorney Michael Garcia said his office was "exploring" their appellate options (PDF of statement) as well.

Photograph of a happy Stewart after her sentencing yesterday by Louis Lanzano/AP