Civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart is sentenced to 28 months in prison, despite facing a penalty of up to 30 years. She was convicted in 2005 of aiding terrorists by allowing her imprisoned client, the blind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, to send messages to the outside world.
Stewart was found to have violated federal orders forbidding her from helping Rahman communicate with his followers. She passed along a press release from Rahman in which he said he no longer supported a cease-fire between his militant group and the government of Egypt. To many, it was seen as a call for Rahman's supporters to resume attacks on the government.
Rahman has been serving a life sentence for planning explosive attacks in New York.
In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl said he was not able to follow prosecutors' recommendations that Stewart serve 30 years in prison. Koeltl noted Stewart's age, 67, and her lifelong body of work as a civil rights lawyer in explaining his break with guidelines.
Stewart was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Elizabeth Fink, her defense attorney, had earlier told Judge Koeltl that a 30-year sentence would be tantamount to a death sentence for Stewart.
Several hundred of Stewart's supporters, gathered outside the courthouse to hear the ruling, erupted into cheers when the sentence was announced.