Judge: Lodi man’s ter­ror­ism con­vic­tions should be va­cated

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Sam Stan­ton

Nearly 14 years after Hamid Hayat was con­victed in a sen­sa­tional ter­ror­ism trial in Sacra­mento and packed off to fed­eral prison, a judge on Fri­day rec­om­mended that his con­vic­tion be va­cated be­cause of in­ef­fec­tive representation by his de­fense lawyer.

U.S. Mag­is­trate Judge Deb­o­rah Barnes issued a 116-page rec­om­men­da­tion in Sacra­mento fed­eral court say­ing that Hayat’s Sixth Amend­ment rights were vi­o­lated by the de­fense put on by an in­ex­pe­ri­enced lawyer who had never be­fore se­lected a jury or tried a crim­i­nal case in fed­eral court.

Barnes’ rec­om­men­da­tion does not mean that Hayat, a for­mer Lodi cherry picker who was ar­rested on ter­ror­ism-re­lated charges along with his father in 2005, will nec­es­sar­ily go free.

In­stead, her rec­om­men­da­tion must now go be­fore the trial judge who heard the case, U.S. Dis­trict Judge Gar­land E. Bur­rell Jr., for re­view.

Barnes’ rec­om­men­da­tion fol­lows a lengthy trail of ap­peals and stems from weeks of tes­ti­mony last year dur­ing an ev­i­den­tiary hear­ing in which his lawyers ar­gued that Hayat was rail­roaded by fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors who with­held ev­i­dence and by FBI agents who co­erced him into mak­ing false con­fes­sions.

Hayat’s Sacra­mento trial at­tor­ney, Wazhma Mo­jad­didi, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Fri­day about the judge’s rec­om­men­da­tion.

Hayat’s ap­pel­late lawyers praised the decision.

“The rul­ing not only af­firms Hayat’s decade-long ar­gu­ments that he did not have a proper de­fense, but also bol­sters what Hayat and his de­fense team have long main­tained: Hamid Hayat is in­no­cent,” San Francisco de­fense at­tor­ney Den­nis Rior­dan said in a state­ment.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors have long de­nounced such claims, not­ing that Hayat con­fessed to trav­el­ing over­seas to train in ter­ror camps and that a panel of the 9th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals up­held his con­vic­tion in 2013.

Mc­Gre­gor Scott, the cur­rent U.S. At­tor­ney for the East­ern Dis­trict of Cal­i­for­nia, who over­saw the orig­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion, said Fri­day that his of­fice is re­view­ing Barnes’ rul­ing.

“It has con­sis­tently been our po­si­tion that Mr. Hayat re­ceived ef­fec­tive representation at trial and that his con­vic­tion by a jury, sub­se­quently af­firmed by the 9th Cir­cuit, is com­pletely valid,” Scott said. “We are presently con­sid­er­ing all our op­tions to in­clude ask­ing for fur­ther re­view by the dis­trict court judge.”

Hayat and his father Umer, an ice cream ped­dler, were ar­rested in the af­ter­math of the 9/11 at­tacks in what be­came the first ma­jor ter­ror pros­e­cu­tion fol­low­ing the hi­jack­ings.

Umer Hayat was ac­cused of ly­ing to the FBI about whether his son had trained in a Pak­istani ter­ror camp, and later went free after plead­ing guilty to a lesser charge.

But Hamid Hayat was con­victed in 2005 of ly­ing to the FBI and pro­vid­ing sup­port to ter­ror­ists and was sen­tenced to 24 years in prison.

Now 36, Hayat is serv­ing his time at a fed­eral lockup near Phoenix and has a pro­jected re­lease date of May 2026.

Dur­ing last year’s hear­ings, Barnes heard tes­ti­mony from na­tion­ally re­spected le­gal schol­ars and al­ibi wit­nesses in Pak­istan who tes­ti­fied that while he was vis­it­ing Pak­istan he was never out of their sight long enough to visit any train­ing camps.

His lawyers also ar­gued that the gov­ern­ment had with­held ev­i­dence that the camp Hayat sup­pos­edly vis­ited was not in op­er­a­tion while he was in Pak­istan.

Barnes re­jected those ar­gu­ments, say­ing they were based “purely on spec­u­la­tion.”

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