Hamid Hayat has a “jihadi heart and a jihadi mind,” or he simply became a means for an FBI informant to make money, attorneys told a federal jury Wednesday during closing arguments in the Lodi man’s terrorism trial.
Jurors got the case late Wednesday afternoon and soon left for the day. They will deliberate today whether the 23-year-old is guilty of providing material support to terrorists and lying to FBI agents. His father, Umer Hayat, has a separate jury that will hear closing arguments today.
In their final words to the jury Wednesday, attorneys provided starkly contrasting pictures of Hamid Hayat. His attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, said he just liked to brag and tell tales to Naseem Khan, the paid undercover informant who was secretly recording their conversations for the FBI.
“Naseem Khan had an easy task. All he had to do was lead the topic of conversation to anti-Americanism and press record,” she said, reminding the jurors that they have no way of knowing how many conversations were not recorded or turned over to the FBI.
Mojaddidi said the government, which had been investigating Lodi’s Muslim population since 2001, merely wanted a case.
In his rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Deitch accused Mojaddidi of speculating. He said Khan’s credibility was verified in other ways, and he also disputed some of Mojaddidi’s other claims.
Mojaddidi had pointed out that an FBI agent interviewed Hamid Hayat on his way from Pakistan to Lodi last May and that the agent noted he was so thin he probably hadn’t been at a training camp.
“How thin or not thin do you think you need to be to spray a crowd with an AK-47?” Deitch asked the jurors. “How thin or not thin do you need to be to strap a backpack of explosives on yourself and walk into a crowd?”
Earlier Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Tice-Raskin began his final argument by describing Hamid Hayat’s “jihadi heart” that was so strong he displayed it by putting together a scrapbook in 1999 to support his beliefs. Then, in 2003, he allegedly went to Pakistan for training.
Hamid Hayat returned to Lodi last year and agreed to talk to the FBI, which had flagged him because his name was on a no-fly list. Hamid Hayat talked to agents for hours, denying that he had attended a terror training camp.
Then, when an FBI agent asked him why the government would have his photo on satellite images, “he knew the jig was up,” Tice-Raskin told the jury.
Day in court
U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. read instructions to the jury and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Tice-Raskin then gave his closing argument on behalf of the government.
Defense attorney Wazhma Mojaddidi, who represents Hamid Hayat, gave her closing argument and then Assistant U.S. Attorney David Deitch gave a rebuttal closing.
Tice-Raskin did not discuss the issue of Khan’s credibility but instead focused on conversations he recorded. Jurors heard some of those tapes, and Tice-Raskin reminded them of the time Hamid Hayat and Khan were talking about the death of Daniel Pearl. The journalist was abducted and tortured, and Hamid Hayat is heard on the tapes saying he’s glad it happened.
“What kind of person expresses glee about the brutal murder and about the brutal mutilation of another human being?” Tice-Raskin asked the jury of six men, six women and three alternates.
Mojaddidi said her client was simply trying to impress Khan, who was older and drove a nice car. And, she said, Khan was the one who would turn the conversation to talk of terrorism.
In all the evidence jurors saw over the past two months of trial, she said, there is no proof Hamid Hayat attended a training camp.
During trial, prosecutors focused on three books, a magazine and the scrapbook, but Mojaddidi said that doesn’t prove anything.
“Reading about jihad doesn’t make you a jihadi, just like reading about a murder doesn’t make you a murderer,” Mojaddidi said.
Jurors spent Wednesday listening to attorneys and taking few notes, though several jurors wrote down specific evidence numbers Tice-Raskin mentioned.
The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hamid Hayat lied to the FBI and that he provided material support to terrorists, though they do not have to prove that the man actually committed an act of terrorism. That clarification was part of instructions U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. read to the jury Wednesday.
In his interviews with the FBI, Hamid Hayat repeatedly denied attending a camp, but then at one point described a mountainous camp accessible by bus and then by foot. Prosecutors previously showed satellite photos of a place in northern Pakistan that could match the description.
Tice-Raskin explained Hamid Hayat’s repeated denials by saying that the young man was still trying to “minimize and conceal” his actions. The prosecutor recalled a time when Hamid Hayat said he only cooked at the camp, but when agents then asked about cooking said he didn’t know how to cook.
Hamid Hayat also named other possible camp locations, even in different countries, but the prosecutor said that was also his way of hiding his actions.
“You saw a con artist. At this point, Hamid Hayat thought he could pull the wool over the FBI’s eyes,” Tice-Raskin said.
“That’s what a jihadi is trained to do,” Tice-Raskin said. “He is trained to confront.”
For her part, Mojaddidi spent time reminding the jury of doubts the defense has cast on Khan’s credibility. When he was first interviewed by the FBI about another matter in 2001, he said he’d seen Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Lodi, along with two other Taliban members.
“Of course the FBI shortly after 9/11 was very interested in this information. They had just found a Pakistani man who spoke Urdu and Pashto and had seen these men in Lodi,” Mojaddidi said. “They struck gold. So did Naseem Khan. He literally struck gold.”
The government has since said it has no proof the men were in Lodi when Khan placed them there, but he remained a paid informant. The FBI paid him between $3,000 and $4,000 a month, plus expenses including a car and airfare to see his girlfriend in Oregon.
Throughout the friendship between Khan and Hamid Hayat, the younger man never said he attended a terrorist training camp, Mojaddidi reminded jurors. Even when Khan called him in Pakistan, Hamid Hayat said he was just sleeping in, playing cricket, eating out and taking care of his sick mother.