U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl in New York signed the compassionate release order Tuesday for 74-year-old Lynne Stewart after federal lawyers and the Bureau of Prisons filed a letter saying Stewart qualified for early release because she has breast cancer that has metastasized and has less than 18 months to live, WNBC-TV, New York, reported Wednesday.
"It's just really wonderful," Stewart, who began serving a 10-year prison term in 2009, told WNBC in a telephone interview after being released from the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. "I'm very grateful to be free. We've been waiting months and months and months."
In his order Koeltl said, "The director of the Bureau of Prisons contends, and this court agrees, that the defendant's terminal medical condition and very limited life expectancy constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons that warrant the requested reduction" in her sentence to time served, the New York Times reported.
Stewart left the prison with her husband, Ralph Poynter, to return home to New York.
"It's a great way to start the new year," Poynter told WNBC.
Stewart was convicted of helping Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind Egyptian sheik, communicate with followers after his 1995 conviction for plotting blow up five New York landmarks and assassinate then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. She wasn't scheduled for release until August 2018.
Stewart was first diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2005 and was in remission. The cancer was discovered to have recurred after she was in prison.
A previous compassionate-release request had been denied because Stewart had more than 18 months to live, WNBC said. However, the judge said he would act quickly when the Federal Bureau of Prisons agreed she had less than 18 months.