U.S. District Court Judge John Koeltl in New York Oct. 25 upheld activist attorney Lynne Stewart’s conviction on terrorist conspiracy charges, finding that allegations by her lawyers were unfounded that a juror on the case feared for her life and was coerced. Koeltl denied Stewart’s request for a new trial or a hearing to investigate charges that jurors were either intimidated or prejudiced against Stewart to begin with.
Stewart’s lawyers cited letters from a female juror, identified only as Juror No. 39, who the defense claimed had written a letter saying she cast her guilty vote “only as a result of the fear and intimidation I was made to feel for my life” during deliberations. Koeltl concluded that the letter allegedly sent by Juror No. 39 a month after the verdict and “was plainly written with the assistance of somebody other than Juror No. 39.” He also dismissed the charge that Juror No. 82, a military veteran, was prejudiced against Stewart.
For reasons of security, the jury was anonymous and partially sequestered, escorted to and from court by U.S. marshals.
In a separate opinion upholding the convictions of Stewart, 65, and two co-defendants, Judge Koeltl also ruled that they were not protected by the First Amendment when they released a statement by her imprisoned client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, in violation of restrictions imposed by the federal authorities.
Stewart argued that statements she issued on the sheikh’s behalf were protected by the First Amendment because he was merely his expressing an “opinion.” But Koetl wrote: “This argument is without merit. Abdel Rahman was found to have participated in the … conspiracy to murder, rather than having merely engaged in advocacy. [The free speech] analysis does not apply to unlawful speech-acts such as conspiracy or aiding or abetting.”
Stewart and her co-defendants, Ahmed Sattar, a paralegal and Mohammed Yousry, an interpreter, were convicted of passing messages from Abdel-Rahman regarding a cease-fire in Egypt’s Islamic Group. (NOTE: Although Patricia Hurtado wrote in her Newsday acount that the defendants were convicted of passing “messages” to the Sheikh’s “followers,” in her June 2002 interview with WW4 REPORT, Stewart asserted that the only message that actually got out was a press release that went to a Reuters reporter in Egypt.)
Stewart, who was convicted in February, is scheduled to be sentenced by Koeltl on Dec. 22. (Newsday, Oct. 26)
See our last report on the Lynne Stewart case.