(Dec. 14, 2009) A U.S. federal appellate court has upheld the convictions of members of Sheikh Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman's legal team for passing communications between him and a federally designated terrorist organization.
The appeal concerned the convictions of attorney Lynne Stewart, Mohammed Yousry, and Ahmed Abdel Sattar. Stewart represented Rahman, who was convicted of committing and conspiring to commit terrorist acts and is serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison. Rahman is subject to “Special Administrative Measures” (SAMs) intended to restrict his ability to communicate with terrorist organizations. Yousry worked as a translator for Rahman's legal team. Sattar had been a paralegal for Rahman's defense and had contacts with Al-Gama'a, a group designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the federal government. Stewart and Yousry were found guilty of violating agreements to abide by the SAMs by sending and receiving messages to and from Al-Gama'a through Sattar. Stewart was sentenced to 28 months of incarceration followed by two years' supervised release, and Yousry and Sattar also received prison sentences.
The defendants appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, challenging the verdicts on numerous grounds, including sufficiency of the evidence behind the criminal counts, propriety of the SAMs, the constitutionality of the federal laws they were accused of violating, selective and vindictive prosecution, errors in trial administration, juror misconduct, and an accumulation of errors they argued required a new trial. The government also appealed, challenging the defendants' sentences as “unreasonable and unduly lenient.”
The Second Circuit rejected all of the defendants' claims. As to the government's appeal, while the Court of Appeals did not find any error in Yousry and Sattar's sentences, it found Stewart's sentence “strikingly low,” given her “extraordinarily severe criminal conduct,” including disseminating potentially lethal statements on Rahman's behalf and making false statements while acting as an officer of the court. The court also said there was substantial evidence that Stewart had committed perjury or obstructed justice at trial, but the trial court had failed to make findings on this issue. The court remanded Stewart's sentence to the trial court for resentencing, with instructions that it make findings on Stewart's perjury and whether her status as lawyer should affect her sentence. Because of the interrelationship of the sentences, the court also remanded Sattar and Yousry's cases for resentencing. (United States v. Sattar, No. 06-5015-cr (2d Cir. Nov. 17, 2009), available at http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/e2347898-6314-43a7-90a1-