Lunch with Lynne and Ralph
by Stephen Lendman
Saturday, September 6 was special. It included quality time with Lynne Stewart and her husband Ralph Poynter. More on this below.
Ralph was a United Federation of Teachers founding member. In the 1960s, he supported core union principles and struggles.
It was when UFT leaders collaborated with New York City Central Board of Education officials. They did so against Black community members.
Ralph was jailed several times for his activism. He later worked as a human rights private investigator. During Lynne’s ordeal, he worked tirelessly for justice.
Lynne is an internationally renown human rights lawyer. She spent 30 years practicing law ethically, morally and responsibly.
She observed American Bar Association’s Model Rules to the letter. They say lawyers must:
“devote professional time and resources and use civil influence to ensure equal access to our system of justice for all those who because of economic or social barriers cannot afford or secure adequate legal counsel.”
Lynne did all that and more. She defended America’s poor, underprivileged and unwanted. They’re often denied due process and judicial fairness without an advocate like her.
She defended Weather Underground’s David Gilbert, United Freedom Front’s Richard Williams, Black Liberation Army’s Nasser Ahmed, Sheik Abdel Rahman, and other figures America wanted convicted.
She knew the risks. She took them fearlessly and courageously. Bush administration officials targeted her. On April 9, 2002, they wrongfully indicted her for:
- “conspiring to defraud the United States;
- conspiring to provide and conceal material support to terrorist activity;
- providing and concealing material support to terrorist activity; and
- two counts of making false statements.”
She was accused of violating US Bureau of Prisons Special Administrative Measures (SAMs).
It included a gag order on her client, Sheik Abdel Rahman. They prohibit discussing topics Justice Department (DOJ) officials rule outside of “legal representation.”
Lawyers can’t discuss them with clients. Denying them compromises their defense.
Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark asked Lynne to join his court-appointed appeal defense team.
In his 1995 show trial, Rahman was guilty by accusation despite evidence proving him innocent of all charges. He never had a chance.
He was convicted of seditious conspiracy, solicitation of murder, solicitation of an attack on American military installations, conspiracy to murder, and conspiracy to bomb in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center attack.
Lynne was targeted for representing him on appeal, as well as for 30 years of human rights advocacy.
Her case was precedent-setting. Then Center for Constitutional Rights President Michael Ratner said it sent “a message to lawyers who represent alleged terrorists that it’s dangerous to do so.”
Lynne’s attorney Michael Tigar called indicting her “an attack on a gallant, charismatic and effective fighter for justice (with) at least three fundamental faults:
- (it) attack(ed) the First Amendment right of free speech, free press and petition;
- the right to effective assistance of counsel (by) chill(ing) the defense; (and)
- the ‘evidence’ in this case was gathered by wholesale invasion of private conversations, private-attorney-client meetings, faxes, letters and e-mails; I have never seen such an abuse of government power.”
It didn’t matter. Lynne was declared guilty by accusation. Her 2004 – 2005 show trial was a mockery of justice.
It wreaked of McCarthy-like tactics. It was orchestrated to convict. It sent a message to other lawyers.
It told them to expect the same treatment if they represented clients Washington wants imprisoned.
On February 10, 2005, Lynne was convicted on all counts. Under New York state law, she was automatically disbarred.
The state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division denied her petition to resign voluntarily.
On October 17, 2006, she was sentenced to 28 months imprisonment. She remained free on bond pending appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
On November 17, 2009, its three-judge panel upheld her conviction. It did so disgracefully.
Judges wrongfully accused Lynne of “knowingly and willfully making false statements.”
They redirected her case to District Court Judge John Koeltl for re-sentencing.
They instructed him to consider enhancements for terrorism, perjury, and abuse of her professional status.
They intimidated Koeltl to comply. He re-sentenced Lynne to 10 years imprisonment. At the time, her husband Ralph Poynter called it “a death sentence.”
Indicting Lynne was a shocking miscarriage of justice. Convicting her revealed deplorable injustice in today’s America.
On November 20, 2009, Lynne began serving her sentence. She was jailed in New York. Then at Federal Medical Center (FMC), Carswell, Texas.
She’s a breast cancer survivor. It reemerged. It spread. It reached Stage Four.
It affected her lymph nodes, shoulder, left arm pit, bones and lungs. Her brain and other body parts became vulnerable.
She was dying. America’s 1984 Sentencing Act grants reduced sentences “for extraordinary and compelling reasons.”
Her condition demanded compassionate release. Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark said she “me(t) every legal, rational and humane criterion for” it.
FMC Carswell warden Jody Upton recommended it. She did so based on Lynne’s Stage 4 condition.
It didn’t matter. On June 25, 2013, she was denied. Allegedly because her health was improving.
It was a Big Lie. Her cancer metasticized. Her life hung in the balance. Her struggle became ours.
A previous article said Obama wanted Lynne Stewart dead. Vital surgery was delayed 18 months. It was put off to kill her.
Her operating physician called her condition “the worst he had seen.” It’s treatable if done so in time.
Individuals diagnosed with Stage Four cancer can live many productive years. Key is effective treatment. Immediate care is essential.
FMC, Carswell provides deplorable treatment. It involves shackling. Ten pounds bound Lynne’s wrists and ankles. Chains connected them.
Weeks passed to see providers. Results took weeks longer. Hospital conditions are shocking. They include shackling wrists and ankles painfully to beds.
It’s standard practice. It’s brutal. It’s medieval. It’s cruel and unusual punishment. It violates core constitutional rights.
Patients like Lynne aren’t flight risks. They deserve better. Lynne worked tirelessly for justice. She’s a role model for right over wrong.
She deserved compassion in time of need. Belatedly it came. New Year’s day 2014 was special.
It was reason to celebrate. Lynne was going home. On December 31, she wrote from FMC Carswell in part:
Well, the impossible takes a little longer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We learned this morning that the US Attorney’s office has made the motion for my compassionate release and that the Order was on Judge Koeltl’s desk.
Since on the last go-round, he stated in Court that he would treat it ‘favorably.’ We are now just waiting expectantly.
The wonderful thing is that Ralph is here in Ft Worth for a visit and will bring me back to NYC with him.
We don’t know when but the rules state that the warden has 2 days to let me go after he receives the order so it could be as early as Friday or a few days more.
Whatever it is, I can’t stop crying tears of Joy!!
I can’t stop thinking of all the marvelous people worldwide who made this happen. You know because each of you played an integral role.”
On December 31, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a motion before federal Judge John Koeltl.
He requested Lynne be re-sentenced to time served. Doing enabled her immediate release. Judge Koeltl complied, saying:
Lynne’s “terminal medical condition and very limited life expectancy constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons that warrant the requested (sentencing) reduction.”
“It is further ordered that the defendant shall be released from the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons as soon as her medical condition permits, the release plan is implemented, and travel arrangements can be made.”
Lynne was free at last. On New Year’s day, 2014 she arrived at LaGuardia Airport. A joyous welcome greeted her.
“It’s just really wonderful,” she said. “I’m very grateful to be free.”
She was wrongfully imprisoned for over four years. No one knows the ordeal she experienced without enduring it themselves.
It’s nightmarish at best. It’s especially horrific when ill. Lynne’s condition was grave. She was given six months to live.
She was maliciously kept imprisoned long enough to kill her. Marylyn Buck’s case was similar.
On July 15, 2010, she was released from FMC Carswell. She was paroled to New York. Three weeks later she died.
She served 25 years of a wrongful 80-year sentence. It was for opposing racial injustice and US imperialism.
Months earlier, she was diagnosed with uterine sarcoma. It’s a rare aggressive cancer. It killed her.
To the end, she was heroically steadfast. She was incorruptible. In 1999, she wrote about “prisons, social control and political prisoners.”
She called prisons warehouses to “disappear the unacceptable…”
“(T)o deprive their captives of their liberties, their human agency, and to punish (and) stigmatize prisoners through moralistic denunciations and indictment based on bad genes – (calling) skin color (ethnicity, or other characteristics) a crime.”
Millions aren’t imprisoned because they’re criminals, she said. It’s because they’re “accused of breaking (a law) designed to exert tighter social control and State repression.”
They’re scapegoated, vilified and criminalized for their beliefs and activism. For championing right over wrong.
They’re locked in cages for deploring war. For supporting peace. For nonviolent resistance against injustice.
For defending constitutional freedoms. For believing human and civil rights matter. For wanting government of, by and for everyone equitably.
Lynne is all that and more. So is her husband Ralph. They’re both longtime political, social justice, and human rights champions.
In early September, they were in Chicago. They came to attend a National Lawyers Guild Law for the People Convention.
They invited this writer to come. We met on Saturday. We spent aquality time together. He had lunch.
We discussed Lynne’s ordeal, her health, as well as major social justice and geopolitical issues.
Given all she’s been through, Lynne looked well. She’s aged 75. Imprisonment takes a toll. So does aging.
She said they held her as long as possible. On release, they thought she’d die in a few weeks.
She beat long odds so far. Chemotherapy resolved most of her Stage Four condition. She’s on medication addressing a lung-area malignancy.
We drank a toast to her continuing to defy medical predictions. To long life and restored health and vigor.
Lynne devoted her professional career to helping others. She deserves life, not pain, suffering or death.
She’s an inspiration to millions. She’s a role model for others. She’s one of America’s best.
Just societies honor people like Lynne. Ruthless ones punish them for doing the right thing.
It’s the American way. It’s always been this way. It’s worse now than ever. Freedom hangs by a thread. It’s eroding in plain sight.
Thousands of political prisoners languish in America’s gulag. It’s the world’s largest. It’s one of the worst.
Dozens of torture prisons supplement it worldwide. Guantanamo is the tip of the iceberg. Others are in numerous countries.
They’re black holes of brutality. America’s global gulag reveals its dark side.
Lynne is lucky to be home free. She deserves long life, good health and vigor. At age 75, hopefully she has a lot of living left to do.
It’s an honor to call her and Ralph valued friends. They’re two of America’s best. They’ve done so much for so many others for so long.
They asked little in return. Doing the right thing is its own reward. Doing it every day matters most.
Imagine if everyone felt this way. Imagine a world at peace. Imagine one fit to live in. Imagine universal equity and justice.
Imagine polar opposite today’s reality. The Spanish civil war was background for Hemingway’s novel “For Whom The Bell Tolls.”
It matched Second Spanish Republic activists against General Francisco Franco fascists. It was a good v. evil struggle. It turned out the wrong way.
In times of conflicts and gross injustice, for whom the bell tolls matters most. It tolls for thee.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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