The jury had deliberated 13 days over the past month before convicting Lynne Stewart, 65, a firebrand, left-wing activist known for representing radicals and revolutionaries in her 30 years on the New York legal scene.
Stewart faces up to 20 years in prison on charges that include conspiracy, giving material support to terrorists and defrauding the U.S. government.
Stewart was the lawyer for Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind sheik sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for conspiring to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and destroy several New York landmarks, including the U.N. building and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels. Stewart's co-defendants also had close ties to Abdel-Rahman.
Prosecutors said Stewart and the others carried messages between the sheik and senior members of a Egyptian-based terrorist organization, helping spread Abdel-Rahman's venomous call to kill those who did not subscribe to his extremist interpretation of Islamic law.
At the time, the sheik was in solitary confinement in Minnesota under special prison rules to keep him from communicating with anyone except his wife and his lawyers.
UPDATE [by The Monk]: I'm topping this post up from yesterday to point out John Podhoretz's op-ed piece in the NY Post. Pod's column gets the issue correct from a layman's perspective. One addition from a legal perspective: the attorney-client privilege has an exception -- the "crime-fraud exception". Thus, attorney-client communications are not privileged where they actively aid in committing a crime or a fraud. An example that you may be familiar with: the Law & Order episode where the lawyer advised his mob clients on how to commit a crime without incurring suspicion (the lawyer maintained silence viz. his clients and went to jail for 20+ years). Here, Stewart aided Rahman's criminal activity by enabling him to pass messages on how and when to commit terrorist acts to his adherents in Egypt.
Here's an excerpt from Podhoretz:
During a visit to Sheik Omar Abdel el-Rahman's cell in Minnesota in 2000, she and a translator conspired to distract prison officials in order to receive and later deliver a coded directive whose purpose was to initiate new terrorist acts in Egypt. The sheik spoke the directive to the translator, who transmitted it to Egypt. But there was some question in Egypt about its authenticity — until Stewart called a press conference to authenticate it.
What passed between the sheik and Stewart was not an attorney-client matter, which would have been considered confidential, but rather a terrorist communication in the guise of an attorney-client discussion.
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In April 2002, she was arrested outside her home in Brooklyn. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Stewart's indictment, and almost instantly roars of outrage were heard among left-liberal legal-rights groups: How dare the government indict a lawyer based on discussions between her and her client? What kind of monstrous overreach was this?
But it was, of course, Stewart herself who was making a mockery out of attorney-client privilege. It's she who, having abused that privilege to abet terrorist acts, should be under attack by the naifs who have come to her defense.