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Sentence upped to 10 years for ex-attorney who aided jailed terrorist

By Vivienne Foley, CNN
  • Federal judge raises Lynne Stewart's sentence from 28 months to 10 years
  • Federal appeals court called initial sentence "breathtakingly low"
  • Stewart was convicted of helping a jailed terrorist contact his organization
  • The disbarred attorney, 70 and ailing, makes emotional appeal for leniency

New York (CNN) -- A federal judge on Thursday revised his initial sentencing of disbarred defense lawyer Lynne Stewart from 28 months to 10 years in prison. Stewart was sentenced for aiding a convicted terrorist's communication from prison to his terrorist group.

Wearing navy blue prison garb and handcuffs, Stewart entered a crowded courtroom to a standing ovation.

"The pain is overwhelming" said Stewart, who paused to compose herself several times while speaking. "Prison has diminished me."

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl held his head in his hand as he listened to Stewart's emotional appeal.

"I did not commit perjury," she said. "I did not attempt to obstruct justice."

Koeltl first sentenced Stewart to just over two years in prison in 2006. Government prosecutors were seeking a 15- to 30-year sentence and in November 2009 a federal appeals court panel directed Koeltl to reconsider his "breathtakingly low" sentencing of Stewart.

Stewart, who is 70 years old and a breast cancer survivor, was known for representing poor and, sometimes, unpopular clients as a defense attorney. In 1995 she represented Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted for a long list of terrorist activities, including his part in a plot to blow up American military installations.

Abdel-Rahman is serving life in prison.

In 2000, Stewart broke her agreement to abide by measures set by the Department of Justice and Bureau of Prisons stipulating that Abdel-Rahman not be permitted any contact with his organization, Islamic Group. After visiting Abdel-Rahman in prison, Stewart passed on a message from him to his Islamic Group followers. The message that Islamic Group should reconsider a cease-fire in attacks against the Egyptian government.

Stewart was disbarred in 2007 and began serving her 28-month sentence in November 2009.

She will remain at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan for the next 60 days for the appeals process. In light of her age and deteriorating health, Koeltl ordered that she then be transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut.

CNN's Raelyn Johnson contributed to this report.