A civil rights attorney sentenced to 28 months in prison for helping a jailed Egyptian cleric communicate with his followers is free pending her appeal of the sentence.
Lynne Stewart had arrived at the court packed for a prison term that prosecutors hoped would stretch for 30 years, in large part for aiding Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind cleric serving a life sentence for plots to assassinate Egypt's president and blow up New York City landmarks.
Instead, a federal judge on Monday rejected the government's demands that the 67-year-old attorney face the lengthy term for convictions of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorist organizations, making false statements and defrauding the government.
"This is a great victory against an overreaching government," she told dozens of supporters outside the lower Manhattan courthouse after winning extraordinary leniency from US District Judge John G. Koeltl. Prosecutors had blistered Stewart's acts as "egregious, flagrant abuse of her profession, abuse that amounted to material support to a terrorist group."