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Dying Brooklyn lawyer, imprisoned for terrorist involvement, is finally released

Lynne Stewart speaks to the media outside Manhattan federal court after her sentencing in 2006. AP Photo by Louis Lanzano

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Manhattan Federal Judge John Koeltl has reversed his initial order and has granted a well-known, controversial Brooklyn lawyer’s request to be released from prison on account of a terminal breast cancer diagnosis.

Citing “extraordinary and compelling reasons” as the justification for reducing the prison sentence of Lynne Stewart, Koeltl ordered Stewart’s release to a Texas hospital.

Stewart, 74, has been imprisoned since 2009, serving a 10-year prison term after she was convicted of helping a blind Egyptian sheik to communicate with his associates while he was serving life in a plot to blow up five New York City landmarks and assassinate then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

At the time of sentencing, it was revealed that Stewart had breast cancer but the cancer had been in a state of remission. Last year, when the cancer returned as a Stage IV cancer,  Stewart appealed to Koeltl for release, asserting that the imprisonment of a cancer patient was cruel and unusual under the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and, in the alternative, her release would be satisfy a compassionate release.  

“…[T]here is no right that requires the release from prison of terminally ill inmates,” Koeltl wrote in his 2013 ruling. There are instances where prisoners are released on the grounds of 8th Amendment violations, including cases where the offender had little blameworthiness in the convicted crime, or limited severity or seriousness of the supposed offense. Stewart’s case does not fit into either of these categories, Koeltl noted at that time.  “[Stewart] cannot point to any diminished culpability or lack of seriousness of the offenses that would render her sentence unconstitutional ... she has failed to show that her sentence is in violation of the Constitution or the laws of the United States,” Koeltl concluded.   

Koeltl also dismissed the compassionate release argument, contending that since the Director of the Bureau of Prisons [BOP] had not filed a motion requesting or supporting Stewart’s compassionate release, the "court lacks authority to reduce a sentence of imprisonment under the compassionate release statute unless a motion is filed by the Director of the BOP.”

Taking note from Koeltl’s 2013 ruling, the Bureau of Prisons filed a motion with federal court seeking Stewart’s compassionate release due to the terminal nature of her cancer diagnosis. Stewart’s own doctors said that she only had a few months left to live.

With less than 18 months to live, Stewart has been granted a five-year ervised release from prison “as soon as her medical condition permits.”

January 2, 2014 - 2:30pm


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