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California man asks court to overturn terrorism conviction

SAN FRANCISCO — Attorneys for a Lodi man sentenced to 24 years in prison for terrorist involvement asked a federal court Wednesday to overturn his conviction, arguing that he was innocent and received incompetent legal representation during his trial.

Hamid Hayat, who was born in Stockton to Pakistani parents, was convicted in 2006 of attending a jihadist training camp during a visit to Pakistan and of lying to federal agents. After the 2005 arrest of Hayat and his father, an ice cream truck driver, the FBI said it had found evidence of an al-Qaida cell in Lodi, a claim that was later dropped.

Hayat was convicted based on statements he made during a lengthy interrogation by FBI agents. His lawyers said the terrorist camp the government accused him of attending was not even operating when Hayat was in Pakistan in 2003 and 2004, and the government knew that.

“That closure surely became known to the government during its investigation of this case, through its aerial surveillance of the Balakot area as well as the ready access it had to the camp location after Hamid’s arrest in June 2005,” wrote Dennis P. Riordan, one of several lawyers who have volunteered to try to win Hayat’s release.

The motion filed in federal court in Sacramento said Hayat’s trial lawyer was not qualified to represent him. She had never tried a criminal case before and had been out of law school only 18 months when she was first represented Hayat, the motion said.

The lawyer, who practiced family and immigration law, knew that witnesses in Pakistan could prove her client’s innocence but was unaware that in federal criminal cases evidence can be obtained anywhere in the world by deposition, according to Wednesday’s filing.

A jury hung on charges that Hamid’s father, Umer Hayat, had lied to federal agents about his son’s alleged terrorist ties. The government dropped the case after Hayat agreed to plead guilty to lying to customs officials about the amount of money his family had during a 2003 trip to Pakistan.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento said prosecutors would review the motion and respond later.
 

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