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Terrorism trial starts Tuesday

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Posted: Sunday, February 12, 2006 10:00 pm

Prospective jurors will appear Tuesday in a federal courtroom at the beginning of a Lodi terrorism trial that attorneys say could stretch nearly three months.

The case was triggered more than eight months ago when Hamid Hayat boarded a plane in Pakistan, returning to his home in Lodi after two years abroad. Then 22, he had married a woman in Pakistan and visited his family there.

That step onto a plane launched a series of events that would soon land both him and his father in jail. Newspapers and TV stations across the nation featured their faces with headlines including the word, “Terrorism.”

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. will conduct much of the jury questioning in his Sacramento courtroom, likely asking jurors how much they have heard about the case and about possible biases or reasons they cannot serve as jurors.

Attorneys will supply the judge with potential questions but, because of the extensive media coverage, Burrell asked them not to file the documents until Tuesday morning so they would not be published.

Much of the evidence has yet to be revealed in public. Prosecutors contacted more than 30 national agencies to see if they had information, some of it classified because national security was involved.

Hamid Hayat, who caught authorities’ attention because his name was on a no-fly list, is charged with one count of providing material support — himself — to terrorists and three counts of lying to the FBI about knowledge and involvement with a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. His father, Umer Hayat, is charged with two counts of lying to the FBI.

The younger Hayat faces up to 39 years in prison if convicted. His 48-year-old father, who drove an ice cream truck in Lodi until his arrest, faces a maximum penalty of 16years. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The men remain held without bail in the Sacramento County Jail, though at one point last year a judge allowed Umer Hayat to be released to house arrest on $1.2 million bond. Government prosecutors appealed and, after numerous court hearing and legal filings, Burrell ultimately over-ruled the bail release.

The case has not been without its legal filings. Hundreds of documents have been filed, and prosecutors earlier this month turned over more than 990 hours of taped conversations. As late as Friday morning, they were turning over more evidence, said attorney Johnny Griffin III, who represents Umer Hayat.

How many, if any, of those recordings will actually be played for the jurors remains to be seen.

Despite the additional evidence, Griffin said Friday evening that he will be ready for trial.

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Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

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