September 30, 2006 -- Facing the prospect of 30 years in the slammer when she is sentenced next month on federal charges of aiding terrorism, radical lawyer Lynne Stewart suddenly has become uncharacteristically contrite.

Well, sort of.

Stewart, who was convicted of helping Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman - her client and mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing - convey orders to his Egyptian henchmen, has written the sentencing judge to beg for leniency.

By leniency, incidentally, Stewart and her legal team mean that she shouldn't spend even a single night behind bars.

She now claims that, rather than aiding the sheik's terrorist agenda - which she insists she does not share, of course - she merely "tested the limits" solely to "serve my client."

And she says she was "naive" and "careless" about "what I could and should accomplish as the sheik's lawyer."

Lynne Stewart - naive?

That's rich.

Plus, she still refuses to admit that she did something wrong in passing on messages from the convicted terrorist to his followers.

In her letter, she maintains that her crimes would have been "legitimately tolerated" before 9/11. Only after the World Trade Center was destroyed, she says, was such conduct "interpreted differently and considered criminal."

"At the time, I didn't see this," she wrote. "I see and understand it now."

Please note: In effect, this amounts to a guilty plea.

If she had 'fessed up at the outset, she could have saved everybody a whole lot of time and trouble. To say nothing of tax dollars.

So, hopefully, Stewart will be understanding when the judge throws the book at her on Oct. 16 - as she richly deserves.

Indeed, once he finishes reading her letter, Manhattan Federal Court Judge John Koeltl should check out Stewart's Web site, - where he'll be hard-pressed to find any of the contrition she's now trying to show. (And, which, incidentally, completely contradicts her testimony at trial.)

The Web site describes Stewart's case as having "echoes" of such famous radical trials as the Haymarket riots, Sacco & Vanzetti and the Rosenbergs. (A poor choice of precedents, we might add - all of those defendants were executed.)

And it claims her prosecution is a precursor to fascism - "an obvious attempt by the U.S. government to silence dissent, curtail vigorous defense lawyers and instill fear in those who would fight against the U.S. government's racism."

The site also features Stewart's radio interview with convicted cop-killer and radical hero Mumia Abu-Jamal, in which she claims to have done nothing more than "issue a press release on behalf of my client," which "only now . . . has become an indictable offense."

The judge might also read Stewart's speech to the 2003 convention of the extremist National Lawyers Guild, in which she hailed such "modern heroes" as Ho Chi Minh, Mao Tse-Tung, Lenin, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

It's like an online Oliver Stone movie.

No one should be fooled into thinking that Lynne Stewart has suddenly turned into a remorseful little innocent who "didn't understand" - after a lifetime as a radical mouthpiece - precisely what she was doing.

Prosecutors are asking the judge to put her away for 30 years.

She deserves every day, and more.