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Federal judge approves release of former civil rights lawyer

A federal judge on Tuesday approved the release of former civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] after the director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) filed a motion requesting her sentence be adjusted to time-served. Judge John G. Koeltl granted the motion after it was filed Tuesday, finding that Stewart's terminal health condition qualified her for "compassionate release." Koeltl previously denied [decision, PDF] a similar motion, but indicated that a motion from the BOP could change the outcome. Stewart was convicted by a jury in 2005 [JURIST report] on charges of conspiracy, giving material support to terrorists and defrauding the US government for smuggling messages from convicted terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman [NNBD profile] to members of his militant Islamic Group [CNS backgrounder]. A statement [text] on Stewart's advocacy website indicated that she would return to her home in New York on Wednesday.

Last year, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a ten-year prison sentence [JURIST report] for Stewart. Stewart's sentence was increased [JURIST report] to ten years from 28 months in 2011 after a federal judge found that she had shown no remorse for her crimes. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed [JURIST report] Stewart's conviction in 2009, but ordered the district court to reconsider her sentence, finding that the current 28-month sentence was "out of line with the extreme seriousness of her criminal conduct." Federal prosecutors sought the maximum sentence [JURIST report] of 30 years for Stewart, saying that her "egregious, flagrant abuse of her profession ... deserves to be severely punished." In 2007, Stewart was disbarred [JURIST report] in the state of New York after her voluntary resignation was rejected.

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