Defiant to the end as she embraced emotional supporters outside the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan, Lynne F. Stewart, the radical lawyer known for defending unpopular clients, surrendered on Thursday evening to begin serving her 28-month sentence for assisting terrorism.
“This is the day they executed Joe Hill, and his words were, ‘Don’t mourn me, organize,’ ” Ms. Stewart said as she walked toward the courthouse, referring to the labor organizer executed on Nov. 19, 1915, after a controversial trial. “I hope that will be the message that I send, too.”
After a lengthy trial, a jury in 2005 convicted Ms. Stewart, now 70, of providing material aid to terrorism and of lying to the government while helping an imprisoned client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, communicate with his followers in Egypt.
The sheik, a blind fundamentalist cleric, was serving a life sentence after his 1995 conviction for organizing a thwarted plot to blow up landmarks in New York. Ms. Stewart assisted him by communicating a statement from him to a reporter in Cairo, which allowed his followers to learn of it.
The start of her prison term was put off while she appealed her conviction and so she could receive treatment for breast cancer. But on Tuesday, a federal appeals court panel upheld the verdict and ordered that Ms. Stewart begin serving her sentence.
The appellate judges, questioning what one called a “breathtakingly low” sentence, also sent the case back to the trial judge, John G. Koeltl of Federal District Court, to determine if Ms. Stewart deserved a longer sentence in light of the seriousness of her conduct and the possibility that she had lied during her trial.