[Pnews] Sacramento judge vacates conviction in 13-year-old Lodi terror case of Hamid Hayat

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 1 13:16:02 EDT 2019


  Sacramento judge vacates conviction in 13-year-old Lodi terror case of
  Hamid Hayat

By Sam Stanton - July 30, 2019

Raheela Hayat, sister of the Lodi man convicted of terror charges in 
2006, talks about how her brother Hamid Hayat's conviction affected her 

Raheela Hayat, sister of the Lodi man convicted of terror charges in 
2006, talks about how her brother Hamid Hayat's conviction affected her 
family. By Sam Stanton

In a stunning move, the federal judge in Sacramento who oversaw the 
trial and conviction of accused Lodi terror suspect Hamid Hayat 13 years 
ago has ordered the conviction and sentence vacated.

The order issued Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. 
essentially means Hayat’s appellate attorneys can seek his immediate 
release from a federal prison in Phoenix, where he had been serving his 
24-year sentence.

“I don’t know whether the government will choose to appeal this order,” 
Hayat lead defense counsel Dennis Riordan said. “They have a right to do so.

“But as someone who has practiced appellate law for 40 years, there is 
no possibility of overturning a district court order that is wholly 
based on issues of credibility.”

Riordan, a nationally known San Francisco lawyer who spent 14 years 
working to free Hayat, said the decision was “as significant as any that 
I’ve had in my career.”

He said he was able to reach Hayat in prison by phone and delivered a 
message years in the making.

“I said, ‘The day has arrived, we won,’ ” Riordan said. “And he said, 
‘You’re joking with me.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m not. The decision came 
down today.’”

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott, whose office prosecuted 
Hayat in 2006 and has maintained that the former Lodi cherry picker had 
trained in an overseas terror camp, issued a statement late Monday 
saying no decision had been made on how to respond to the judge’s order.

“We are in the process of reviewing the district court decision and 
assessing what steps, if any, should be taken and considering all our 
options,” the statement read.

Hayat’s family in Lodi issued a statement Tuesday rejoicing at the 
judge’s decision.

“We have been waiting 14 long years for Hamid to be freed,” the 
statement read. “Hamid cannot get those 14 years of his life back, but 
we are relieved to see the case take such a big step forward. We miss 
him and hope to be reunited with him soon.”

Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento chapter of the 
Council on American-Islamic Relations, also applauded the decision.

“After all these years, we never lost hope that Hamid’s wrongful 
conviction would be overturned,” Elkarra said. “At the time of Hamid’s 
case, the prosecution took advantage of anti-Muslim, post-9/11 bias to 
convict an innocent man. And this much-needed good news comes at a time 
when Islamophobia and bigotry as a whole is on the rise.”

Burrell’s decision comes seven months after U.S. Magistrate Judge 
Deborah Barnes issued a 116-page recommendation 
Burrell that the conviction be vacated because of ineffective 
representation by his original defense attorney, a woman who at the time 
had never tried a criminal case in federal court.

Barnes’ recommendation followed weeks of testimony in a 2018 hearing 
<https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article196971114.html> in which 
Riordan hammered home his contention that the FBI had coerced Hayat into 
false confessions, that the training camp he supposedly visited was not 
even open at the time he was in Pakistan and that alibi witnesses who 
could prove his innocence 
<https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article197251474.html> were not 
produced at the original trial.

The Hayat case has been controversial from the start, when federal 
prosecutors announced they had broken up a terror cell in Lodi and 
arrested Hayat on terror charges and his father, Umer, an ice cream 
truck driver, on charges of lying to the FBI.

In the post-9/11 atmosphere, the announcement sent shock waves through 
the Muslim community in Lodi and elsewhere, especially with allegations 
that Hamid Hayat, then 22, had allegedly taken part in explosives and 
weapons training that included using photos of President George W. Bush 
as targets.

Umer Hayat’s jury could not reach a verdict in his case and he later 
pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to time served.

But Hamid Hayat, who was born in San Joaquin County in 1982, was found 
guilty in 2006 of terror-related charges and packed off to prison.

That began years of appeals efforts on his behalf, and Riordan 
eventually won the right to hold an evidentiary hearing in which he 
sought to prove that Hayat’s lawyer, Wazhma Mojaddidi of Sacramento, was 
so inexperienced that he could not have received a fair trial.

Evidence presented in the hearing included the fact that Mojaddidi did 
not present evidence from witnesses in Pakistan who could have cleared 

Some of those witnesses subsequently were called by Riordan in 
late-night video sessions from Pakistan during last year’s hearing and 
Burrell, in a 36-page decision, adopted the magistrate judge’s finding 
that the alibi witnesses could provide crucial testimony.

Mojaddidi, who has contended her client was innocent, issued a statement 
late Monday praising the decision to vacate his conviction.

“I am extremely happy to hear that Hamid will be freed and reunited with 
his family,” she said. “As a young attorney, I worked very hard with the 
legal team to prove his innocence and never gave up believing in him.

“Justice has finally been served.”

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