Hamid and Umer Hayat
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Hamid Hayat (born September 10, 1983) is a United States citizen of Pakistani descent from Lodi, California. His father, Umer Hayat (born January 5, 1958), was born in Pakistan and emigrated to the United States in 1976; he is a naturalized American citizen. Together they were the subjects of the first terrorism trial in the state of California. Both were alleged to be part of, or associated with, a terrorist sleeper cell.
Terrorism charges and trial
In June 2005 Hamid Hayat was arrested and charged with providing material support to terrorists, and of lying about it to FBI agents. The prosecution alleged that Hamid Hayat had spent the better part of two years at an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, returning in 2005 with an intent to attack civilian targets in the United States. The defense contended that Hayat was in Pakistan to engage an arranged marriage. On April 25, 2006, a jury voted to convict Hamid Hayat of one count of providing material support or resources to terrorists and three counts of making false statements to the FBI in matters related to international or domestic terrorism. The maximum penalty for these charges is 39 years of imprisonment. Sentencing was set for July 14, 2006, before U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr.
His father, Umer Hayat, was also arrested and charged with two counts of making false statements to the FBI regarding the investigation of his son and of certain members of the Muslim community of Lodi. Umer's charges ended in a hung jury. When faced with a retrial for the same offenses, he pled guilty in exchange for a release with time served.
The younger Hayat's conviction is controversial in some circles. Supporters of the Hayats believe them to be innocents railroaded by overzealous FBI agents and post-9/11 Islamophobia. They cite the occasionally outlandish nature of the confessions, especially Umer's, in particular where he describes a supposed al-Qaeda training camp populated by a thousand men doing "pole vault" practice in ninja masks (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle masks, according to the Los Angeles Times).
Hamid Hayat's attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, also claims that he had been worn down by the FBI's five-hour interrogation and confessed to crimes he did not commit. Hamid and Umer Hayat's separate, videotaped confessions were the linchpin of the government's case. Former FBI agent James Wedick Jr., a veteran of 35 years, believed the confessions had been coaxed with intimidation and leading questions. Wedick was never allowed to testify and present his analysis of the confession videotapes at Hamid Hayat's original trial. Prior to being contacted by defense attorneys for Hamid Hayat, Wedick had had no knowledge of or involvement with the case.
The government argued that there is a greater pattern at work. A government informant taped him saying, in regard to the murder of Daniel Pearl by Pakistani terrorists: "They killed him. So I'm pleased about that. They cut him into pieces and sent him back. That was a good job they did. Now they can't send one Jewish person to Pakistan." FBI agents also recovered from his room jihadist magazines (e.g. of the Jaish-e-Mohammed) and a "jihad scrapbook" containing articles praising the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. Hamid also carried in his wallet a supposed "jihadi supplication" reading "O Allah we place you at their throats and we seek refuge in you from their evils."
Much was made of how Umer Hayat seemed to possess sums of cash unusual for an ice-cream-truck driver with only an 8th grade education (e.g. a $390,000 home with no outstanding debt). According to U.S. District Court Judge Garland Burrell, Hayat "appears to have access to a significant amount of cash from an unexplained source."
There is also a tenuous family connection to radical Islam: Umer's father-in-law, Hamid's maternal grandfather, is a prominent leader in the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a conservative, strictly religious political party in Pakistan strongly associated with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Previously, on April 19, 2003, father and son had been stopped at Dulles International Airport on the way to Pakistan. They were attempting to illegally carry $28,093 in cash out of the country. According to the defense, this was money they had saved to build a vacation home in Pakistan and to pay for Hamid's wedding and the wedding of his sister.
Motion for a new trial
After his initial conviction Hamid Hayat sought a new trial, for which his attorneys, Wazhma Mojaddidi and Dennis Riordan, filed a motion on the grounds of misconduct by jury foreman Joseph Cote as well as other court misconduct. Cote allegedly used racial slurs during the trial and compared Hayat to the Pakistani men who had conducted the recent terrorist attacks in London (see 7 July 2005 London bombings and 21 July 2005 London bombings). Cote also contacted an excused alternative juror during deliberations.
The hearing was held on April 6, 2007. On May 17, 2007, U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. rejected a new trial for Hamid Hayat, writing in his ruling that the reports of juror misconduct were not credible. Hamid Hayat's defense attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, announced plans to appeal.
September 2007 sentencing
On September 10, 2007, Hamid Hayat was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison. It was his 25th birthday. In the words of Federal Judge Garland Burrell Jr., Hayat had re-entered the U.S. "ready and willing to wage violent jihad."
The Hamid Hayat case is seen as an example of a pre-crime conviction (McCulloch and Wilson 2016).The dissenting Judge Tashima in Hayat’s unsuccessful appeal argued he would reverse the conviction “because the judicial branch’s constitutional duty to do justice in criminal prosecutions was not fulfilled in this case in which the government asked a jury to deprive a man of his liberty largely based on dire, but vague, predictions that the defendant might commit unspecified crimes in the future” (United States v Hayat 2013: 4, 59, emphasis in original). Judge Tashima acknowledged that the law permitted conviction on the basis that the defendant might commit such unspecified crimes in the future, but argued that when the law allows for such convictions every aspect of the trial should be scrupulously fair, and that Hayat’s trial did not meet this standard. The majority likewise described the government’s “preventative approach” as “one that permits the conviction of potential terrorists who may never in fact have committed any terrorist act if not arrested and convicted” (United States v Hayat 2013: 24).
- Arax, M. (2006)."The Agent Who Might Have Saved Hamid Hayat". Los Angeles Times Magazine. Retrieved October 30, 2006.
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- McCulloch, J and Wilson, D (2016) Pre-crime: Preemption, Precaution and the Future https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138781696