A judge said Monday he would sentence civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart to 28 months in prison on a terrorism charge for helping an Egyptian sheik communicate with his followers on the outside.
Stewart, 67, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, smiled as the judge announced his decision to send her to prison for less than 2 1/2 years. She had faced up to 30 years in prison.
"If you send her to prison, she's going to die. It's as simple as that," defense lawyer Elizabeth Fink had told the judge before the sentence was pronounced.
Stewart was convicted in 2005 of providing material support to terrorists. She had released a statement by Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind sheik sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted in plots to blow up five New York landmarks and assassinate Egypt's president.
Prosecutors have called the case a major victory in the war on terrorism. They said Stewart and other defendants carried messages between the sheik and senior members of an Egyptian-based terrorist organization, helping spread Abdel-Rahman's call to kill those who did not subscribe to his extremist interpretation of Islamic law.
In a letter to the sentencing judge, Stewart proclaimed: "I am not a traitor."
"The end of my career truly is like a sword in my side," Stewart said at her sentencing. "Permit me to live out the rest of my life productively, lovingly, righteously."