NY Civil Rights Lawyer Is Disbarred

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

By SAMUEL MAULL, Associated Press Writer



A civil rights lawyer convicted of helping an imprisoned terrorist sheik communicate with his disciples was disbarred Tuesday.

The New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division denied Lynne Stewart's request to voluntarily resign from the practice of law.

Stewart was convicted in 2005 of providing material support to terrorists. She had released a statement issued by one of her clients, Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind sheik sentenced to life in prison for plotting to blow up five New York landmarks and assassinate Egypt's president.

The appellate panel said Stewart became subject to losing her law license immediately upon being convicted of a felony.

Her request to resign was in a letter dated Nov. 14, 2006, after she was convicted, and therefore could not be accepted, the court said.

Stewart was convicted of one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to provide and conceal material support to terrorist activity and providing and concealing material support to terrorist activity. She also was convicted of two counts of making false statements.

The state appellate court said the federal convictions of making a false statement were analogous to a state felony statute against filing a false written statement.

"Accordingly, the federal convictions provide a proper predicate for automatic disbarment," the appellate judges wrote.

Stewart's appellate lawyer, Joshua Dratel, declined to comment on the disbarment ruling. But, he said, if a lawyer's felony conviction were reversed the disbarment could be vacated and the lawyer reinstated to practice law.

Stewart was sentenced to 28 months in prison. Government prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 30 years. U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl has permitted her to remain free pending federal appeal.

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