On October 14 -16th, 2007, Hofstra University Law School in Long Island, New York will host a conference for students and attorneys titled, “Legal Ethics: Lawyering on the Edge”. The theme will be “unpopular clients, difficult cases, and zealous advocates”. Some of the subjects covered will include: prosecutorial abuse, ethical problems at Guantanamo, and how to make sure you don’t land in jail when your client’s trial is over. Purportedly, the panels and lecturers will consist of many “prominent experts in the field of ethics, as well as pre-eminent criminal defense and civil rights practitioners”. With topics like these, it’s no wonder that one of the stars being showcased is terrorist sympathizer and ultra-left political activist, Lynne Stewart.
Ms. Stewart was convicted on terrorist charges in 2005 and was immediately disbarred as a result. She had been representing Omar Abdel Rachman, a.k.a. “the blind Sheik”. While he sat in jail, he was prohibited from contact with anyone from the outside world except for family members and his attorney. To ensure that he would not be able to direct violent activities from inside his cell, authorities requested that Ms. Stewart sign an agreement not to relay messages on his behalf. She complied. Never-the-less, she later decided to violate this agreement and assist her terrorist client in advancing his murderous messages.
Via secret prison wire-taps, officials confirmed that Stewart broke the law. Government investigators also found one of the blind Sheik’s murder-minded fatwas (religious edicts) in Stewart’s office. She was arrested thereafter. Osama Bin Laden later explained that this fatwa served as his inspiration for September 11th. Subsequent to a jury trial, Stewart was convicted of conspiracy charges and of providing material support to a terrorist. She was sentenced to jail exactly one year prior to the date she is scheduled to speak at Hofstra. Due to alleged “health” problems, she has been allowed to remain free pending appeal. (Oral arguments are scheduled for December 17, 2007).
Stewart’s client, Rachman, is in prison serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, after being convicted of terrorism-related offenses. He was the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center attacks. He also plotted to blow up several additional New York City landmarks including the George Washington Bridge and the Holland Tunnel. Fortunately, law enforcement officials caught him and his latter plans were thwarted. Raised in Egypt, Rachman became a key player in two of Egypt’s most radical Muslim groups: the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and the Islamic Group. While living there, the blind Sheik issued a fatwa calling for the murder of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, stating that it was un-Islamic for Sadat to enter into a peace agreement with Israel. Eventually, the Sheik was expelled from the Egypt for his radical activities.
Shockingly, he entered America on a visa despite being on the State Department’s official terrorist list. Operating from the United States, he still managed to indirectly perpetrate his evils upon the Egyptian government. He taped his radical sermons and urged his followers to commit heinous acts abroad. As a result, the Islamic Group murdered several government officials including the Speaker of the Parliament. They also massacred 58 tourists.
Once here, the blind Sheik started preaching at three New York mosques and shored up a group of loyal devotees. In jail, he also remained enormously influential among Egyptian terrorists and members of Al Qaeda. The US government tried to block the Sheik’s communications to his supporters. But Ms. Stewart had other plans for him and aided his terrorist efforts. She communicated messages directly to his followers, flagging his go-ahead for further jihadist activities.
In response to stark criticism for inviting Ms. Stewart to speak at Hofstra, university officials quipped that they are not endorsing any speaker’s viewpoint. Further, they assume that the students are more likely to walk out considering her a cautionary lesson rather than a role model. Perhaps some of their other upstanding speakers will serve as role models for Hofstra students: Michael Tigar who worked as Stewart’s criminal defense attorney and will be the Keynote Speaker at the conference; Gerald Lefcourt, an outspoken supporter of Ms. Stewart’s, a former attorney for the Black Panthers, and the Banquet speaker; or Ron Kuby who also previously represented the blind Sheik.
While it is the right and the duty of defense attorneys to zealously represent even the guiltiest and most heinous of criminals, Ms. Stewart crossed the line and became a criminal herself. Even Ron Fischetti, former Mafia attorney stated, “in my mind, she went beyond the bounds of advocacy…based on her own political beliefs.” No doubt Stewart’s anti-American leanings and her radical leftist political activities served as the foundation upon which she and the blind Sheik formed an ideological bond.
But, what’s all the fuss about? Liberals are perplexed as to why some are criticizing Hofstra so harshly for inviting attorney-turned-terrorist-aiding felon to lecture at their law school ethics convention. Alan Colmes of Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes” inquired, “[w]hat are they so uptight about?” After all, as some in the pro-Clinton media have so astutely pointed out: Stewart will not be “teaching”, she’s just “speaking”, and this is not a “class”, it’s just a “conference.” So what’s the big deal?
Well, that all just depends on what the meaning of the word is, is.