NY judge denies early release for ailing ex-lawyer

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge rejected a bid Friday for early release from a dying former civil rights lawyer convicted in a terrorism case, though he said he would be “sympathetic” to a request by federal prison officials to free her.

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl explained in a written decision why he rejected Lynne Stewart’s request, saying the law did not permit him to re-examine her 10-year sentence without a recommendation for “compassionate release” from prison authorities.

The judge said he would give “prompt and sympathetic consideration to any motion for compassionate release filed by the (Bureau of Prisons), but it is for the BOP to make that motion in the first instance.” The bureau rejected Stewart’s request in June. She resubmitted it Wednesday.

Stewart defense lawyer Jill Shellow said she believes the judge is sympathetic to her client’s plight.

“Unfortunately, he believes he lacks the authority to reduce her sentence without BOP first making a request. I hope that the BOP will read his opinion as an invitation to act favorably and quickly on her request for reconsideration,” she said.

The government declined comment.

Stewart, 73, imprisoned since 2009, was convicted of helping a blind Egyptian sheik communicate with followers while he was serving a life sentence in a plot to blow up five New York City landmarks and assassinate then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2005. The cancer went into remission but Stewart says it has returned.

Shellow said Stewart’s oncologist says she has less than 18 months to live, which happens to be the length of time the Bureau of Prisons has set to be eligible for compassionate release.

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