Government prosecutors announced Friday that they will once again try Lodi resident Umer Hayat on two counts of lying to the FBI during a terrorism investigation.
U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. set a June 5 jury selection date, and the trial will likely get underway the following day.
A jury last week deadlocked 6-6 and 7-5 on the charges, and Burrell declared a mistrial. The government then had the option of trying the case once more.
Hayat, 48, remains out of custody but is under house arrest with an electronic monitoring bracelet. A judge Monday released him on bail after he had spent 11 months in jail.
A separate jury convicted his 23-year-old son, Hamid Hayat, of all four charges against him and he remains jailed without bail. He faces up to 39 years in prison, but Burrell is considering a defense motion to dismiss one or two of the lying charges because the allegations are nearly identical.
Umer Hayat, who drove an ice cream truck in Lodi until he was arrested last June, faces as much as 16 years in federal prison. He did not speak in court and made no comments to reporters outside the courthouse, but defense attorney Johnny Griffin III said the government’s decision to retry the case was “disappointing” and will have a “chilling effect” on the war on terror.
“No one’s going to want to talk to the government, to talk to the FBI,” he said, “because they’ll be in fear of not one but two trials.”
Umer Hayat was not the target of the FBI’s investigation, and agents only decided to interview him after he accompanied his son to the bureau’s Sacramento office. After hours of interviews, he was arrested and later charged with lying to agents about his alleged knowledge of terror training camps in Pakistan, and of his knowledge that his son attended the camps.
For the government, the case is important enough to try again, especially in the light of 9/11. Lying “may result in agents losing valuable time to foil a deadly plot, or perhaps bringing the wrong person or persons under suspicion,” U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said in a statement.
“Seven citizens serving as jurors in the Umer Hayat trial found beyond a reasonable doubt that he had lied to the FBI about his son’s attendance at a terrorist training camp,” Scott continued, saying that Umer Hayat should “be held accountable.”
Griffin pointed out that the jury forewoman, a Woodbridge resident, said after trial that the jury was evenly divided and that she didn’t think another jury would be able to reach a unanimous decision.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Brown talks to reporters at the Federal Courthouse in Sacramento on Friday about the decision to retry Umer Hayat on charges he lied to the FBI about his son, Hamid Hayat, attending terrorist training camps in Pakistan. (AP Photo/Max Whittaker)
Umer Hayat’s jury spent eight days in deliberations, which included another viewing of his videotaped interviews with FBI agents. Prosecutors allege that he lied until they showed him his son’s confession, and that he then changed his story. Griffin argued that Umer Hayat was merely trying to protect his son and tell the FBI what they wanted to hear.
The father and son had a joint trial with two juries, and Hamid Hayat’s jury convicted him after nine days of deliberations. He was charged with providing material support to terrorists, along with three counts of lying to agents.
Defense attorney Wazhma Mojaddidi had asked Burrell to dismiss two of the lying charges, arguing that they were the same charge. Burrell heard arguments from both sides Friday, and said he would rule later.
Prosecutors Laura Ferris all but acknowledged that one of the counts was very similar to the others, though she stopped short of agreeing that Burrell should dismiss the charge.
Attorney Johnny Griffin talks to reporters at the Federal Courthouse in Sacramento on Friday about the retrial of his client, Umer Hayat, right, on charges he lied to the FBI about his son, Hamid Hayat, attending terrorist training camps in Pakistan. (AP Photo/Max Whittaker)
If Burrell drops one of the lying counts, that would decrease Hamid Hayat’s sentence by eight years; if he drops two counts, the sentence would be reduced by 16 years.
Hamid Hayat is scheduled to be sentenced in July, though that date will likely be postponed because Mojaddidi has filed motions for a mistrial due to jury misconduct. A holdout juror said the foreman was racist and talked about media coverage of the case, and an alternate juror said the foreman contacted her about the holdout juror in the middle of deliberations — actions the judge had instructed the jury to avoid.