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Jury weighing Umer Hayat’s terror case

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Posted: Thursday, April 13, 2006 10:00 pm

Jurors are now deliberating the cases against both Umer and Hamid Hayat, the Lodi father and son accused of having ties to terrorism.

After a day of closing arguments and jury instructions, Umer Hayat’s jury got the task late Thursday afternoon of deciding whether Umer Hayat lied to FBI agents. A second jury, which began debating his son’s fate a day earlier, spent all of Thursday in deliberations and left for the day with no verdict.

Prosecutors accuse Umer Hayat, 48, of lying when agents asked him last June if he had known about Hamid Hayat’s plans to attend a training camp.

“He wanted the FBI to think he only knew about his son’s attendance after the fact when, in truth, he knew about it and supported it, as did the rest of his family,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Tice-Raskin told the federal jury of eight women, four men and two alternates.

Defense attorney Johnny Griffin III countered that the government showed no proof the camp even existed and likened it to a citizen saying he’d robbed a bank across from the courthouse. In order to convict that person, law enforcement authorities would have to prove that the bank even existed.

“They have to prove to you that there is a camp, and that the camp is a jihadist terror training camp, and that Hamid went there and that his father knew about it,” Griffin said.

Umer Hayat first talked to the FBI briefly at his home June 3, after agents came looking for his son. Hamid Hayat’s name had been on a no-fly list, which was triggered when he returned from Pakistan to the United States.

Agents wanted to conduct more interviews, so Umer Hayat drove with his son to the FBI’s Sacramento office the following day. He waited in the lobby for hours, and then agents decided to interview him.

Griffin said Umer Hayat was a worried parent who was simply concerned for his son and trying to cooperate with the FBI. He pointed to places in the ice cream truck driver’s taped interview with the FBI, including one when he tried to swear on the Koran and asked to take a lie detector test.

“He tried to use his own lie detector test and then he tried to use their lie detector test, and they wouldn’t do either one,” Griffin said of the agents.

Umer Hayat even cried during an earlier unrecorded interview, and throughout trial Griffin has asked why agents didn’t record all of the interviews.

Charges against Umer Hayat

The jury must decide if Umer Hayat is guilty of:

• Lying to FBI agents on June 4, 2005, by denying that he had first-hand knowledge of terror training camps in Pakistan.

• Lying to FBI agents that same day, in denying that he knew his son had attended such camps.

Day in court

The day was similar to Wednesday, only this time Umer Hayat’s jury heard closing arguments. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Tice-Raskin gave his closing argument, defense attorney Johnny Griffin III presented his closing and then Assistant U.S. Attorney David Deitch gave a rebuttal.

In the meantime, Hamid Hayat’s jurors, who got their case Wednesday afternoon, spent Thursday deliberating. They asked for several items, including an easel and pad, and later asked to watch Hamid Hayat’s interviews again. That will happen Monday morning.

“They decided they would tell you what they wanted you to hear, how they wanted you to hear it and when they wanted you to hear it,” he said, standing in front of the jury and sometimes lowering his voice to a near-whisper.

He reminded the jurors of the fact that agents made suggestions and Umer Hayat repeatedly agreed, often saying, “Yes sir,” or echoing the agents’ words.

In his rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Deitch accused Griffin of not looking at the whole picture and referred to other times in the interview where Umer Hayat supplied information. Further, he said, if Umer Hayat had no knowledge of the camps, he had no reason to lie about it.

“Why would he lie? Why would he lie to the FBI and say, ‘My son went to a jihadist terror camp?’” Deitch asked.

Griffin said agents were leading and interrupting Umer Hayat when he didn’t give the answers they wanted. That, Griffin said, is why Umer Hayat ultimately said he traveled around Pakistan and visited terror camps, including one in a deep basement where masked trainees used curved swords and learned to pole-vault over water.

Despite such claims, Griffin said, Umer Hayat never talked about terrorism. The only time that was mentioned, he said, was when paid FBI informant Naseem Khan took the stand.

Khan, who recorded a conversation with Umer Hayat in which they discussed about Hamid Hayat’s “training,” previously told jurors that it meant terrorist training. The conversation, though, was about Hamid Hayat’s troubles at home, his laziness and his father’s desire to see his son get religious training and a real job.

Griffin told the jury that Khan, who received more than $225,000 in salary and expenses, should be doubted. He failed to turn over a tape to the FBI, and he said he’d seen top al-Qaida leaders in Lodi in 1998 and 1999, something the government has since said is not true.

Deitch, who gave the government’s final words in the case, said nobody has disputed Khan’s taped conversations with Umer Hayat. But, he told the jurors that they could throw out Khan’s evidence and still have enough proof for a conviction.

If convicted of both counts of lying, Umer Hayat faces up to 16 years in prison. Hamid Hayat, charged with three counts of lying and one count of providing material support to terrorists, could spend up to 39 years in prison if convicted. Jurors have not been given those figures, and have been instructed not to consider any possible penalties when making their decisions.

Both juries will spend today deliberating separately, though Hamid Hayat’s jury indicated Thursday that they will not reach a decision soon. They sent several notes to the judge Thursday, asking to leave early at 3 p.m. today, and then asking if Hamid Hayat’s videotaped interviews can be played Monday or Tuesday morning.

It was not clear if the jury wanted to hear all four hours of the interview, but U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. said that will commence at 9 a.m. Monday.

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