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Cindy Sheehan Unplugged By: Jane Shahi
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 19, 2005


The following is a transcript of comments made by featured speakers -- including Cindy Sheehan -- at a rally to honor Lynne Stewart, a radical leftist lawyer convicted of helping the perpetrator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, communicate with terrorist cells in his home country. This rally took place on Wednesday, April 27, 2005, at San Francisco State University and was recorded by FrontPage Magazine reporter Jane Shahi. Among the sponsors of the event were the National Lawyers Guild, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the International Socialist Organization, and the Campus Antiwar Network. With Mrs. Sheehan's newfound popularity, we felt her remarks were most revealing. -- The Editors.

Jess Ghannam

In my wallet, I carry a card of my attorney, and I think to myself, “okay, they can take me away. They can strip me of my constitutional rights.” But, at some point, I know that I can just call my attorney.

What they are doing with Lynne Stewart is taking away that little piece of illusional or delusional security that people of color, that Arab-Americans, that Muslim-Americans, that all oppressed people in this country have. Because, in this country, the constitution is not afforded to everybody. The constitution does not apply to everybody in this country and now, because Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans and other oppressed people, are on the chopping block, so to speak, of free speech. We understand that we don’t have these constitutional rights anymore because, now that they are going after the attorneys who are trying to protect us, we realize that the last vestige of protection is being attacked.

We have to understand that, what is happening to Lynne Stewart, is connected intimately with what’s happening in Iraq. What’s happening to Lynne Stewart is intimately connected with what’s happening in Palestine. What’s happening to Lynne Stewart is intimately connected to what’s happening in Philadelphia, to what’s happening in Oakland, to the destruction and dismantlement of health care infrastructure for people of color. That when an Iraqi or a Palestinian loses their home, it’s no different from what’s happening in Philadelphia or in Oakland, when oppressed communities lose their homes or are being kicked out. All of these things are {applause}.

Iraq is not the only place under occupation. Palestine is under occupation. San Francisco State is under occupation. {applause} Oakland is under occupation. I do believe in free speech, you know that deeply, and I see that we have our friends here, the College Republicans and the Israeli support community, here who are intimately connected with each other because we know that these are the two most brutal supporters of occupations in the world today. So it’s no surprise {applause} that we have College Republicans and Israelis in bed together. What a surprising thing. You have a right to be here! There’s no law against being a fool. We know that, right? Free speech does not protect what you say. It’s just it gives you the right to say that. So I see that I have less than a minute. I’m getting kicked out of here.

In closing, let me say it’s really important we connect the dots here, that we understand that what is happening to our comrade Lynne Stewart is connected to a larger political thing that’s going on in terms of an imperial expansion. Not just in Iraq, not just in Palestine, not just in the Middle East, but here in our country here, and we have to defend it. It’s worth dying for, we have to understand that, so Lynne, thank you {applause}.

Matt Gonzalez

After September 11, I think the United States government went in the wrong direction. Rather than kind of having an open dialogue about how our foreign policy has hurt other nations and caused other nations to want to fight back, we essentially started promulgating laws that repressed our own citizens, our own people. We saw that in the Patriot Act, which we all now know was sitting on a conservative shelf somewhere, waiting to be used. As part of that, Lynne Stewart has been attacked.

I practiced law for a decade before I became a legislator and I’ve returned to private practice. I can assure you that, in all the cases I handled, it would have been virtually impossible to give somebody a defense had the other side been eavesdropping on my conservations. Now, I want you to think what that is, in an adversarial system, the idea that one side is able to listen in to what the other side is doing, does not create a very fair and even playing field. In this particular, we’re lucky that we actually know that they engaged in this kind of eavesdropping. How many other conversations have they gotten information that aided prosecution, or aided defense efforts in giving the client medical attention, trying to move a client to do confinement in another place?

I think that we have to ask ourselves as a society, at what point do these efforts that are essentially under the guise of patriotism, going to ruin our democracy? And at what point do we see this for what it is?

One thing about Lynne’s case is that, notwithstanding the fact that the federal government had to rely on these special administrative measures to eavesdrop, which I believe were unconstitutional and eventually will be found to be unconstitutional, and years from now, people are going to be looking back at this time and they’re going to be saying, “What did you do to fight this? What did you do to try to preserve your democracy.” But even with all of that, even listening in on all those conversations, you know what? They still don’t have a case. They have no credible argument to be made here, that Lynne aided terrorism. They have no act of terrorism that took place as a result of her actions. They have no nation that she was conspiring to aid. They really have nothing and that is why, in part, the Federal government, after obtaining the evidence that they used in this case, still had to wait two years before they filed an indictment, because there was nothing, they knew they had nothing, but what they did have was a time of fear and they knew that, if they put a case in front of a jury which was really about attacking 9/11 and going after Osama bin Laden, that in the wide net, they would catch people like Lynne and they would chill the vigorous defense that is presented by attorneys. So this is a very important case. I’m very glad that people are here and paying attention to it. I want to commend Lynne and Jeff, whose been managing the campaign out here on the West Coast. It’s important that, even in the face of a conviction, that you don’t go home and get scared and you just wait until your sentencing and hope that they take it easy on you. It’s important to make the rounds and educate as many people as you can. Thank you.

{applause}

Cindy Sheehan (Military Families Speak Out; Goldstar Families for Peace; her son Casey was killed in the Iraq War)

First, I want to give my little story about Lynne. Of course, you all have read To Kill a Mockingbird. Lynne is my human Atticus Finch. He did what he knew was right, but wasn’t popular. And that’s what Lynne is doing. {applause}

We are not waging a war on terror in this country. We’re waging a war of terror. The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush. {applause}

How many more people are we going to let him kill before we stop him? I’m going to talk about free speech and recruitment. Do you know that it costs $66,000 to recruit one recruit? That’s continuing all of their – you know, the recruiter’s salary, the recruiter’s bonus, the place that they rent to recruit and things like that. All the perks they get and everything. That’s not even training the recruit. It costs our government about $6,000 a year on each child in California. $46,000 a year to house a prisoner in our state. Our priorities are seriously screwed up, as I mentioned.

I really want to thank you guys for doing this, especially the young people. It gives me so much hope to know that there’s young people who care more about who’s our next American Idol – less about that. You guys care more about people being killed. There’s too many that care more about the next American Idol. Too many people in our country that don’t even really know we have a war going on. You know, they never have to think of the war, and I’ll never, ever forget this war. I can never forget it, even when I’m sleeping {tears} I know that we’re in a war and I know that George Bush and his band of neo-cons and their neo-con agenda killed my son. And I’ll never, ever, ever forget.

I take responsibility partly for my son’s death, too. I was raised in a country by a public school system that taught us that America was good, that America was just. America has been killing people, like my sister over here says, since we first stepped on this continent, we have been responsible for death and destruction. I passed on that bullshit to my son and my son enlisted. I’m going all over the country telling moms: “This country is not worth dying for. If we’re attacked, we would all go out. We’d all take whatever we had. I’d take my rolling pin and I’d beat the attackers over the head with it. But we were not attacked by Iraq. {applause} We might not even have been attacked by Osama bin Laden if {applause}. 9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through and, if I would have known that before my son was killed, I would have taken him to Canada. I would never have let him go and try and defend this morally repugnant system we have. The people are good, the system is morally repugnant. {applause}

Please – teach your babies, teach your babies better than I taught my babies. When Congress gave George Bush the right to go to war, they abrogated their constitutional responsibilities and they basically made our constitution null and void. We have no checks and balances in this country. We have no recourse. If they’re going to what they did to Lynne, they don’t have backs they call names, what we need to be is, we the people, we’re their checks and balances. We’re the only checks and balances. We have to stand up and say, Not only is this our school, this is our country. We want our country back and, if we have to impeach everybody from George Bush down to the person who picks up dog shit in Washington, we will impeach all those people. Our country needs to {unintelligible} we need to start over again.

I just want to say that you students, Students Against War, you have all my support and all my organization’s support. I told Kristen if you have any actions and you need a ringleader, that I only live about an hour away. I’ll be here. If I can sleep on somebody’s floor, we can have this, we can camp out, do whatever we need.

And I just want to way to George Bush and I want to say to the people who are here, that are still sheep {unintelligible} and following him blindly: if George Bush believes his rhetoric and his bullshit, that this is a war for freedom and democracy, that he is spreading freedom and democracy, does he think every person he kills makes Iraq more free? It doesn’t make us more free. It damages our humanity. The whole world is damaged. Our humanity is damaged. If he thinks that it’s so important for Iraq to have a U.S.-imposed sense of freedom and democracy, then he needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls. They need to go this war. They need to fight because a just war, the definition of a just war, and maybe you people here who still think this is a just war, the definition of a just war is one that you would send your own children to die in. That you would go die in yourself. And you aren’t willing to send your own children, or if you’re not willing to go die yourself, then you bring there rest of our kids home now. It is despicable what they’re doing. {applause}

What they’re saying, too, is like, it’s okay for Israel to have nuclear weapons. But Iran or Syria better not get nuclear weapons. It’s okay for the United States to have nuclear weapons. It’s okay for the countries that we say it’s okay for. We are waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now. That country is contaminated. It will be contaminated for practically eternity now. It’s okay for them to have them, but Iran or Syria can’t have them. It’s okay for Israel to occupy Palestine, but it’s – yeah – and it’s okay for Iraq to occupy – I mean, for the United States to occupy Iraq, but it’s not okay for Syria to be in Lebanon. They’re a bunch of fucking hypocrites! And we need to, we just need to rise up. We need a revolution and make it be peaceful and make it be loving and let’s just show them all the love we have for humanity because we want to stop the inhumane slaughter.

{wild applause}

Jess Mackler 

I’m also a coordinator for the defense of Mumia abu-Jamal. I can’t tell you how tragic it is that these two innocent people are {unintelligible}. If they imprison Lynne for 30 years, which they’re threatening to do on September 23, that will be effectively the rest of her life. Mumia’s still on death row and they are still trying to execute him. In Mumia’s case, while we have presented tons of literature, I mean, of evidence to the judge, to the courts at every level, proving that Mumia is an innocent man, they have taken the legal position based on decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that, in the United States today, under American law, innocent is no defense. The evidence you have is submitted in an untimely manner, just think about that for a second. Lynne Stewart is charged, and I want you to listen carefully, with conspiring to aid and abet a conspiracy to commit terrorist acts against unnamed people at unnamed times at unnamed places in unnamed countries. That is, in the entire seven months of trial, and I attended on five separate occasions, the government did not present a single witness to say that Lynne Stewart in any way had harmed any person anywhere at any time. That’s seven months.

They used 85,000 wiretaps of Lynne and her codefendants. They wiretapped every e-mail, every fax, every phone call, not to mention her conversations with her own client, the Blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who had a 1995 trial that Lynne defended him on and believes, and I believe, that he, too, was the victim of America’s so-called conspiracy charges. And he too is innocent. But he happened to be the leading critic of the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, which was the second largest recipient of U.S. aid, to carry out U.S. policies.

The government presented only two witnesses: one to say that I signed a special administrative measure that directed Lynne not to issue press releases. The government said she crossed the line. The second witness simply certified that the hundreds of thousands of millions of pages of translation from Arabic to English or English to Arabic were accurate. That was the government’s case. What happened in the seven-month trial? The government had a movie screen and they projected, for seven months, press clippings written about terrorist activities all over the world. But the judge was forced to say that the jury could not take anything as factually valid in any press release because, legally, they’re just hearsay. That is, if I write an article in the paper, although I think it’s an accurate article, and I say there were two people at this meeting, you don’t have to believe what I say in the article, it has no standing in court, unless you bring in the reporter who was there and you question him.

So the judge said to the jury, Ignore everything in these thousands and thousands of press clippings that they had. Other than, we introduced them in violation of the law against hearsay, we’re allowed to introduce them to show that mind of the defense. What could be in Lynne Stewart’s mind, having all these press releases and all these press clippings, about terrorist activity.

Well, Lynne went to the witness stand and they said to her, where did you get these boxes of press clippings that they found in your office? She said, I got them from the U.S. government, they’re obligated to give them to me as part of the discovery process when I defended my client. The government showed its own press clippings that they gave Lynne, not to mention the fact that she automatically collects everything that has to do with anything with her client, and they use that to say, What person would collect press clippings other than one who had terrorism on her mind? Her codefendant, {unintelligible} had similar boxes of press clippings which they showed and his defense was, I’m doing my Ph.D. thesis on Islamic group, which is the group that the Blind Sheik is a member of. He brought in his dissertation committee, his professors, that’s his job, that’s his work. He speaks that language, he’s a professional translator, and they used his Ph.D. thesis press clippings to say, This is what was in his mind.

In the entire trial, they never had a person that said that Lynne did anything illegal, hurt anybody, harmed anybody or that anybody was ever harmed or intended to be harmed. This trial came about only in the context of the atmosphere of the New McCarthyism promoted by the government of the United States, a bipartisan Congress, to chill the defense of anyone who is controversial, to chill the expression of any controversial ideas. And you wonderful people and Students Against War, ISO, that have organized this meeting, are going to be the best defenders of Lynne and Mumia, because you learned the truth and understand that, in order to win Lynne’s freedom, and in order to win Mumia’s freedom, we have to make the price of this corruption too high to pay in regard to a massive loss of confidence in whatever confidence is left in the credibility of this government.

I’m proud to introduce – and thank you for bringing her here – Lynne Stewart.

{wild applause}

Lynne Stewart

You know, it’s wonderful to be at San Francisco State. I remember when I was an activist back in the 60s, before I became a lawyer, when I was teaching school, and it was like the saying, my hair was as long as my skirts were short. This was a place we all looked to and we were talking coming over this morning about Nathan Hair (spelling?) and San Francisco State in the 60s and what a beacon it was to the movement. And I see it is going to live up to that great reputation.

I’m here today to talk to you about my case, but really to talk about your case, also. Because, you know, as activists, as beginning activists, some of you, you know, you’re putting yourself in a position that this government may indeed, at some point, come down on you. I certainly, back on April 9, 2000, when I was ready to leave to go work and my husband, Ralph, was at the front stoop and – I think people in San Francisco know what stoops are, in New York, they’re basically the places where people hang out in the summertime who don’t go to the Hamptons. {laughter} He went out on the stoop and I heard him, from inside the house, saying, “I don’t see any badges!” As I looked through the storm door, I could see people on my lawn, little postage-stamp lawn in Brooklyn, and I was saying to him – he was saying, “I don’t see any badges, I don’t see any warrants. You’d better state your business.” So I came out the door, because Ralph is the activist, he’s the guy who goes to a PTA meeting and can get arrested {laughter}. So I said to him, “Ralph, take it easy, whatever it is, we’ll have out by lunchtime.” But the FBI stepped up and said, “We’re not here for him. We’re here for you.”

Well, it’s a moment, you know, when your whole life passes before your eyes, where you say, uh-oh, I don’t think this is because I didn’t put a stamp on my income tax. This is a serious business and what can it be?

Well, it was only later in the day, after I had gone through the whole process, been cuffed, taken downtown, photographed, and put in the lock-up – unlike that other Stewart woman, you know, that Martha Stewart woman? – they allowed her to come in with her lawyer and sign into the marshal’s. Never heard a door clang behind her. But I don’t have a billion dollars’ net worth, either, so that could be the difference.

At any rate, you know, sitting there and, when my lawyer came in and told me that I – what I was charged with, who I was charged with and what this was all about – I really had to immediately make up my mind and I did, because I was so angry at the thought of what they were doing to me. Not to me, but to me, it was what they were doing to the legal profession, to those lawyers who are down in the trenches representing people. And I said, the first thing, I’m going to speak out – against my lawyer’s advice – and I don’t advise you to do that – again, said don’t talk to the press, you’re tired, you’ve been in jail all day, this is a shock. But I knew that it was so important to bring light to this situation, to bring an openness to it. That is six months after 9/11, we’re talking about. April 2002. People in New York still had their heads in the sand. Some of them still do. But, at that time in particular, we were all so isolated and felt so absolutely powerless against what was going on on the outside.

So, little did I know, while I was being arrested, that the Attorney General of the United States had come to town, to ballyhoo his War on Terrorism. He, of course, did not bring out that the terrorist was a grandmother I guess of about ten at that time and lived quietly in Brooklyn – or, not so quietly – but lived in Brooklyn anyway. But he did manage that evening, after he had a big press release, he then went on the Letterman Show, to ballyhoo, to sing his song, you know, his song, his “eagle” song, the lyrics of which, as I understand, {unintelligible}. But the lyrics of which are: This country has no God – no King but God. And, you know, came as a surprise to me because I thought we didn’t have any king and that god was a matter of choice. But not in his mind and this is a person who is on this show, I really – talk about obscene, you know – prosecutors usually, are supposed to take a high road, not to get on and cheerlead their wonderful successes in going after whatever the person is they’re going after. Not so John Ashcroft. And I thought a little bit on that day and I’ve thought a lot about it since, why me? Why me? And I’m going to talk a little bit about that whole scenario of the case. But I do think that I’m now facing 30 years, not because of what they accuse me of having done, which really I’m completely innocent of and they understand that, too, but really for being 30 years as a movement lawyer and for the 10 years before that, being opposed to their war in Vietnam, being opposed to the racist policies of the Board of Education of the City of New York and fighting against that and standing up for people, regardless of the circumstances, who really were designated enemies of the state.

So, I’m here today, as an enemy of the state myself, because now they have {applause}. But when I say “the state,” I think of myself, and I know that the tabloid press of New York, notably the New York Post, refers to me as “traitor lawyer.” And that, to me, is not at all true. I think that I’m a greater patriot because I didn’t just come out in the sunshine and when it was good weather but I came out when it was bad weather, and when things were very, very much at a low ebb and I spoke up and I said what had to be said, and I continued with my work and I defended the people who needed defense. That was my job, that’s what I did {applause}.

Jeff has given you an overview of the trial. I just want to let you all know that there are packets of material. The trial is a very complicated one. There’s an overview in there. I’m happy, when we finish, to answer any questions you might have about it. But, I really want to talk about the verdict and about the allegation that they are so happy to make nowadays, which goes something like, “Lynne Stewart stepped over the line. Therefore, she is not worthy of your consideration, or your sympathy, or your support.” Well, let’s look a little bit at that line. The line they’re referring to, we’re not talking about a law on the books that says: you may not murder. This is an administrative rule handed down by the Bureau of Prisons which basically forbade my client to communicate with the media. However, what had been happening for the lifetime of this regulation, had been that my client regularly communicated with the media, not through me, but through his other lawyers, Ramsey Clark, ex-Attorney General of the United States and Abdeen Jabara (sp?), founder of the Arab-American Anti-Defamation League. He had regularly done that and the government had said absolutely nothing about it.

The press release that I made in May 2000 was given to me during a visit and they were listening in on that visit. So they know exactly how it came about. They knew exactly that it was no “secret message.” One of the most pervasive characterizations of what I did was “she ‘carried messages’ from the jailhouse,” you know, like Abdul, the parrot sings at midnight.” These were not messages. These were direct, open statements. The material that we brought in was what we are supposed to do under the rules of ethics. And that is what has traditionally governed lawyers in the exercise of their duties, that each state has rules of ethics. They are very stringent, they tell you what you may do and what you may not do. And the line, the notion of this line, is that you may aid your client, you may defend him vigorously, but you may not step over the line and join his criminal enterprise. And you know, it sounds like, well, that shouldn’t be a problem. But – for many, many lawyers, you make this decision many, many times in the course of representing someone, making a decision as to what exactly is to be part of the case, to be investigating the case, to talk to a certain witness, to find a certain witness. Is this helping the client’s case? Or this just helping the client and who he was and what he wants to do? You make those decisions.

And we certainly made the decision about doing press releases and this press release, I just want to say parenthetically, was hardly a secret. It was made to Reuter’s News Service, one of the big international news services, who promulgated it on its wire far and wide, it was picked up by a lot of papers, mostly in the Middle East. So we have this bright line and we know we don’t go over it. I’ve done a lot more drug cases than I ever have done Islamic fundamentalists and I have visited young people who I am representing and they may well say to me, “Ms. Stewart, call my mother and tell her that all the beepers north of 96th Street gotta be turned off.” Easy one, right? Easy one? I’m not going to do that. That’s over the line. That’s not part of legal representation. That’s helping him do whatever he’s doing and I probably would say, “Look, you know I can’t do that, I’m the lawyer here. And I would actually advise you not to do that, not to make such a communication, if indeed that’s a communication you want to make, because you don’t know who may be listening or how that may play out.”

Now, let us say this same young man says to me, “You know, when the police came in to arrest me, they knocked me to the ground, put a gun to my head and marched me out of the apartment. And when I marched out, I had no glasses. And they wouldn’t let me go back for them, they wouldn’t let my mother give them to me. So here I am, he gave me all these papers to read, and I can’t read them, because I can’t see them. Could you just do something to try to get me my glasses?” Well, you know, there are a lot of lawyers who would say, “That’s not a lawyer’s job, You’re not supposed to be getting people glasses.” But see, in my view, because of course, I went to Rutgers Law School, and Rutgers Law School in the 70s was called, “The People’s Electric Law School,” and you know why? Because we were going to bring power to the people! And I still believe in that and I still do that and, the fact of the matter is, if he had asked me for his glasses, I would have called his mother, I would have made the arrangements to get those glasses into the prison, through the warden, by bothering people, by haranguing people, until that happened. Because that is part of what we are supposed to do. The client has to know what his case is about and he couldn’t know about the glasses. So the client gets the glasses.

The Sheik asked me to make this press release and we all thought it was a good idea because we felt our duty was to keep his name alive in the world, in the real world. That when somebody sinks below the level, where nobody remembers him, he’s not heard of, no one cares what happens to him, at that point, that person is, indeed, doing a death penalty, even though we call it “a life sentence.”So we had decided that that was part of the work and, even though these regulations, these prison regulations said, no, the fact was, they gave us the leeway to do the legal work. That whatever we did as part of the legal work, {unintelligible} was permissible. I had an e-mail from a lawyer up in New Hampshire, and he said, “Please, I don’t get it. Why are you doing press releases? That’s surely not a lawyer’s job?” Well, in this day and age, it is a lawyer’s job. We do press releases. We do them – you can see – how many times have you watched on your local televisions as the lawyer comes out of the jail and speaks on behalf of the client. Or enunciates what the case is about.

We’re not allowed to talk, and see I know these ethical rules because if you’re a lawyer that regularly takes on the United States of America on behalf of clients, you’d better know the ethical rules. One of the rules: you can’t talk about the facts of an ongoing case. Of course, nobody told John Ashcroft that. But, there’s no rule against not doing publicity and, indeed, we’re enjoined to do it because it’s recognized, within these ethical rules, that the state power to call a press conference and to put out a certain image, and the media control of the press by the state – and, by “the press,” I mean the press, the TV, the radio – is really very, very wide. And the only thing to dispel it usually is the defense lawyer.

So during the Sheik’s trial, I regularly was on the front steps of the courthouse, talking about him. I was never admonished, I was never told about it by the sitting judge in that case. He was regularly on the phone talking to the press about the case and everything else. But, once convicted, once placed in the middle of Minnesota, they put out these rules, these administrative rules and said, You may not communicate with the media.

Well, we had been doing it regularly, as I said, and this is also about the line and, to us, that was not crossing the line and I suggest to you that no line existed in 2000 at all, and that the press release was not a big deal – just to use good old American images here, “not a big deal.” I got a letter from a U.S. attorney. The U.S. attorney said, “You made a press release, you’re going to have to sign onto the regulations again.” They sent out some regulations. They were very restrictive. We sent them back. We went back and forth for a couple of months. Eventually, I signed onto those regulations and went back into see the client. This is fighting terrorism, guys? Do you think I’m going to do things. If you think that press release was in fact aiding terrorism, let me go right back in?  So we thought the case was resolved. It was over.

Little did we know that, two years later, that there would be, of course, 9/11, first of all and then, following that, my arrest and I just suggest to you that the line moved. It moved from that day and to where it was in early 2002, April, when I was arrested, where it suddenly became not only against the prison regulations but now they had boot strapped into this indictment. And remember, and I don’t what you to do big legalistic histories here, the first indictment was dismissed by the judge. Because he basically said, no lawyer could ever figure out what was right and wrong based on this law.

However, when they came back with the same facts, corded (?) to slightly different bottles, he then said nothing. So, we’re not sure whether someone spoke to him, or – I don’t want to even speculate, because I’m not a conspiracy theorist. But something happened between 1 and 2 and we did go to trial on 2.

But when I’m talking about this bright line again, this line that I supposedly crossed and why no one is supposed to have any sympathy, you have to remember that, with that glasses example that I gave you, if the government decided down the road that my client in that case had used those glasses, read the material, called the witnesses, told them they better leave town or else and said that he was going to go to trial, but there wouldn’t be any witnesses around, and that they decided that I aided in that obstruction of justice by bringing him the glasses, because if he couldn’t have read the papers he couldn’t have made these remarks, notwithstanding that he had a right to read the papers. That’s what I’m talking about “moving the line.” That’s moving it from where something that’s perfectly legal and permissible on Day 1 becomes illegal a year or two later.

And, furthermore, you know, we’re talking like a basketball game: they blew the whistle on me, foul, stepped over the line, but you know, they didn’t blow the whistle on Ramsey Clark, or {unintelligible} and Ramsey Clark’s father was a U.S. Supreme Court justice. My father was a teacher in Queens, New York. Ramsey Clark is an ex-Attorney General of the United States of America and I don’t think Ashcroft even felt in himself to be big enough to do that. Of course, there was a shameful moment during the trial, and I say shameful to you, more shameful in some ways than the whole prosecution when they announced, in answer to the judge, that Ramsey Clark was an unindicted co-conspirator of this case. And Ramsey gives credit certainly, and to my undying admiration of the man, came forward, testified. He said he thought it was what we were supposed to do for the client. He thought it was our duty, is what he said exactly, to the client, to carry on and do the press releases and keep his word and life alive.

We (I was going to say something else about Ramsey, slipped my mind). {Her husband tells her something} Okay – see, Ralph’s heard me speak so often, he’s my automatic – and I used to be very proud because he’d always say, “you never say the same thing twice,” but I guess after 16 appearances – and this is only the 15th! I do usually say at this point that, when Ramsey Clark testified about his background and how he was the Attorney General at that point in our nation’s history, when the march from Selma was to take place, and he was put in charge on behalf of the justice department to protect the marchers and he was given command of the U.S. Army to protect the marchers, and he tells this in his Texas drawl and he ends by saying, “And all those people wanted to do was vote.” It was a moment, I tell you, in that courtroom – there are moments in courtrooms, and that was one of them. And he certainly made that moment.

But the fact still remains that the government, when they’re talking about foul and blowing the whistle, they didn’t arrest Ramsey, they didn’t arrest Abdeen – not that I want them to be arrested – but the contrast is very important. The jury, we think, was overwhelmed by the pervasive fear in the country today and we as political activists have got to be aware when we’re out there trying to organize people, just how frightened so many people are. They’re frightened because they don’t understand what is happening. They truly do not get it. They don’t see that their lives are in any way related to what happens in that bigger world out there. They don’t understand that what’s out there can come home to them. And it did on September 11, and you know, we’ve never explored that in this country. Oh, we have the 9/11 reports but we never said, Why did this happen and what can we do to prevent 20 more young men, who are not suicidal, who are not crazy, from getting in planes and doing exactly the same thing? And it’s not about Homeland Security or putting Lynne Stewart in jail, believe me. It’s about saying, What have we done to encourage this kind of enmity, that would require young men to give their lives up?

So, I’m asking you to help me, though. We are facing the sentencing. The judge has had his hands untied by recent Supreme Court decisions that allow him full discretion in sentencing. That means that he can decide what the sentence is. We were tied for years to this awful grid called The Sentencing Guideline, which was where your number – who you are met with the number of your crime, that’s how much time you got. But now he does have discretion and we’re asking people to make it be known to the judge in New York exactly what their feelings are. I’m not talking about, you don’t have to say, oh, I think Lynne’s a great lady and I don’t think she should go to jail. But you can say, “I’m very troubled by this. I’m a student activist. I want a lawyer to be able to defend me to the full extent of the law. I don’t want them looking over their shoulders to see who’s back there. I don’t want them listening in to our conversations about strategy and now to defend.”

And so, when we ask you to do this letter, we’re really asking you to do it for you, as well. And this judge, we just want him to know, we hope we’re going to have thousands and thousands of letters. I don’t know if you ever saw the movie Miracle on 34th Street, where the lawyer proves that the man is Santa Claus because they bring in bag after bag of mail for him. But that’s my vision of the courtroom {laughter}. Not that I’m Santa Claus. But that we will have so many letters that we bound up into volumes by the lawyers, they will be delivered to the judge. Will he read every letter? I don’t know. But, even if he picks one out of a hundred and the one is the one that moves him to understand that, after 65 years on this earth, I’m not going to be rehabilitated by going to jail. In their view, anyway. I really am much better for this world out here than in there.

{wild applause}




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