Lynne is speaking in the Bay Area in May – see flyer for dates!
Lynne & Raging Grannies sing at Ralph, Betty, Lillian birthday celebration. Photo by Sara Flounders.
Went down to the local medicaid office to check on my application for coverage after I got it marked urgent last week…
two months after being freed on compassionate release, and countless trips to medicare and medicaid offices, I now have Medicaid coverage !!! Effective as of Feb 1 and extending to July 2014.
I immediately called SKettering and made appointments. Whew, what a relief .
Please save Wednesday evening March 26 for a birthday party thrown by me, Lynne Stewart for Ralph and Betty.
WHERE: 80 St Marks Place (nr. 2d Avenue) in New York
Ralph will be 80 !!!!!!! on March 21. Betty will be 70 !!!!!! on March 30
That’s a LOT of years dedicated to our movement.
We are still making final arrangements but promised is Norman Thomas Marshall performing as John Brown and Seraphina Brown (our grandaughter) on guitar. Ralph promises an 80th birthday Fiery Speech! More Stars will join them and us.
We will have cake (Birthday of Course) and coffee etc.
We are asking $10 admission at the door (no-one turned away) to benefit Political Prisoners Commissary.
Updates to come – keep checking out lynnestewart.org.
I am still so overwhelmed by the love and joy of the Valentine of February 14 that I find it difficult to write through my tears of happiness. Happens every time I sit down to write this or when I see the photos on the website. It was a great moment for me, my family but also, I hope for the movement. We needed a victory like this to carry us to new realizations of Unity and erase the fractiousness that has characterized us since the days of Co Intel Pro.
I am still working on finding my normal after the 4+years in federal prison. I am hampered by the probation condition that forbids my association with “felons”; making it impossible to communicate with my former sisters and constituency at Carswell. As many of you know, once the Prison was aware that Ralph was landing at Dallas/Ft Worth for our usual monthly visit and farewell, that afternoon they got me out of the Big House in a hurry. Unbelievable speed and efficiency for the Bureau of Prisons. The Judge in NY signed the order at 2:15 pm and I was waiting for Ralph in a parking lot outside the prison gates at 5:30. (They probably thought that either you all, or the media would be storming their citadel if I weren’t released immediately !!) I was so glad to be free of their Arbitrary Authority but it also meant that many close friends Mara, Wanda, Kathy, Jenn, Rollow, Gwen, to name a few–I never got a chance to say goodbye to personally and now I can’t. BUT, I haven’t forgotten my promise to keep on working to bring about some merciful changes in the Prison System and I still think about them, often.
On another sombre note, little did I think that when I arrived in Brooklyn I would need to become locked in ferocious battle with the forces of Medicare and Medicaid. But that Is what Ralph and I have been doing since January 2. Let me preface this by saying that my prognosis, of 12 months of life with this cancer, in 7/13 has not changed. First, Medicare told me that when I went to jail in November, 2009, they had continued to pay my Health Insurance provider until 2011. When they “notified” (?HOW?) me that I needed to enroll again in Medicare I did not respond. (of course not, being in Texas) Therefore, not having opted then to get this entitlement, I could not now get coverage until July 2014. They suggested that I sign up for Medicaid administered by the state of NY. After many trips and many documents Medicaid finally (2/22) declined to cover me, because Ralph and I have income (our social security payments) that exceeds their monthly limit. We are now hoping that we will be able to enter into a program whereby they will accept a different accounting, a pay in, and I will be covered through July. Sloan Kettering Hospital, my choice for treatment, has allowed me to pay with Medicaid. So, we are working on it and I want to say Loud and Clear that poverty is hard work. We still advocate for Single Payer !!! No-one should have to jump through these hoops to get treatment, especially when they are not feeling all that well or energetic.
And or course, and eternally, I have to say, I couldn’t do it without my formidable and loyal and loving partner Ralph Poynter. We have to laugh sometimes as we compare our elderly selves to the passionate duo that met in their twenties on the “60′s battle lines of political challenges. But, hey, we’re still here and intend to remain loyal to all the causes that are necessary to fight in this rapacious capitalist world we live in. We must have victory. There must be a better world for us and for all the generations still out there.
Finally, I have to say that just as I finished writing this I received word of the passing of my brother at Law, friend and Comrade Chokwe Lumumba in Jackson, Misssissippi. I will write at another time, about the six month trial and acquittal victory (1983) for Bilal Sunni Ali in the federal Brinks case, where we served as co-counsel. Chokwe, on summation played a record of Gil Scott Heron. We are all the heirs and heiresses of a rich heritage of resistance. We must fight on.
Some photos from recent New York celebration for Lynne below. Click on a photo to see a full-size version.
All photos taken by Brenda Sandburg – thank you!
There will also be a new blog from Lynne coming soon.
For those unable to make the event tonight, it will be broadcast on WBAI (http://www.wbai.org/). Listen in!
By Chris Hedges
In this photo from Oct. 16, 2006, lawyer Lynne Stewart enters Manhattan federal court for her sentencing. (AP/Louis Lanzano)
The lynching and disbarring of civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart, who because she has terminal cancer was recently released from prison after serving four years of a 10-year sentence, is a window into the collapse of the American legal system. Stewart—who has stood up to state power for more than three decades in order to give a voice to those whom authorities seek to crush, who has spent her life defending the poor and the marginalized, who wept in court when one of her clients was barred from presenting a credible defense—is everything a lawyer should be in an open society. But we no longer live in an open society. The persecution of Stewart is the persecution of us all.
Stewart, 74, is living with her husband in her son’s house in New York City after being released from a Texas prison a month ago. Because she is disbarred she cannot perform any legal work. “Can’t even work in a law office,” she said softly last week when I interviewed her at the Brooklyn home. “I miss it so terribly. I liked it. I liked the work.”
Her career as one of the country’s most renowned civil rights lawyers coincided with the fall of our legal system. She said that when she started practicing law in the 1970s it was a “golden era” in which a series of legal decisions—including rulings affecting police lineups and what information and evidence the government had to turn over to defendants on trial—created a chance for a fair defense. But these legal advances were reversed in a string of court decisions that, especially after 9/11, made the state omnipotent. As citizens were stripped of power, she said, “a death of the spirit of the bar” occurred. Lawyers gave up, she said. They no longer saw defending people accused of crime as “a calling, something that you did because you were answering a higher voice.”
“I don’t want to make anything a kind of religious thing, it wasn’t that, but you know, you defended people because they were up against the mightiest organism in the universe: the government of United States, whether they were state or federal,” she said Thursday evening as we sat with her husband, Ralph Poynter, at her son’s dining room table.
Stewart, working with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and lawyer Abdeen Jabara in 1995, was the lead trial counsel for Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian Muslim known as “the Blind Sheikh,” who was convicted in October of that year for alleged involvement in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He received life in prison plus 65 years, a sentence Stewart called “outlandish.” She said Abdel Rahman was put on trial not for any crimes he committed but because the Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak, as well as Washington, was frightened of his influence over the Egyptian masses. The United States, along with Egypt, wanted to “take him off the scene” and “get him put away where he would no longer exert the influence he had.” The cleric, now 75 and in poor health, is imprisoned in the medical wing of the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.
The court, through numerous rulings, refused to let Stewart mount her defense, ensuring that the government prosecutors would not be challenged. The proceedings were a tawdry show trial, a harbinger of the many judicial assaults against Muslims in the United States after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. I was based in Egypt at the time of the trial as the Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. I remember being stunned at the repeated mendacity of the government prosecutors, who blamed Abdel Rahman for terrorist attacks he had, in fact, publicly denounced. The prosecutors, for example, accused him of orchestrating the killing of 62 people in 1997 in Luxor, Egypt, although the sheikh at the time condemned the attack and had no connection with the Egyptian group that carried out the massacre. When the guilty verdict was read, Stewart burst into tears, “the only time I ever cried in the courtroom.”
Stewart continued to visit the sheikh after the sentencing. Three years after the trial the government severely curtailed his ability to communicate with the outside world, even through his lawyers, under special administrative measures known as SAMs.
Abdel Rahman asked Stewart during a prison visit in 2000 to release a statement from him to the press concerning a negotiated cease-fire between the Egyptian government and militants. The Clinton administration did not prosecute Stewart for conveying the press release, although she was admonished and prohibited from seeing her client for several months. The Bush administration, however, in April 2002, with the country baying for blood after the attacks of 9/11, decided to prosecute her for the two-year-old press release. Stewart says she never expected to be charged for releasing the press statement.
Minutes before her arrest on April 9, 2002, her husband, who later would organize the successful fight to win her a compassionate release from prison after she diagnosed with breast cancer, was outside on the stoop of their house, which, she said, “in New York is where you go sit on the steps in the summertime when you can’t afford to go to East Hampton.” She heard him in a heated conversation.
“I go to the door and I hear him saying ‘I don’t see any badge, I don’t see any warrant, what are you doing here, anyway?’ ” she said.
Assuming Ralph was being arrested, she told him to take it easy, she would have him home by lunchtime.