Responding to a defense request for a speedy trial, U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. on Friday set an Aug. 23 trial date for Umer Hayat and his son Hamid, two Lodi men charged with lying about terrorist activities.
But the judge said he'd consider postponing the trial if the federal government can prove it needs more time to collect evidence and turn it over to the defense.
That didn't sit well with Umer Hayat's attorney, Johnny L. Griffin III, who said the defendants have a right to go to trial within 70 days of their arrest.
"I've got a man sitting in jail," he said, adding that the government never should have arrested and charged the Hayats without collecting this evidence beforehand.
Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Steven Lapham said his office is canvassing 40 government agencies for evidence on the Hayats, including the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department - agencies that could have classified information.
"Ordinarily, it takes 30 to 60 days for those agencies to respond to the government's initial request," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Tice-Raskin. "This case is truly unusual and complex, and a 45-day exclusion (to the 70-day speedy trial requirement) is totally reasonable."
The government attorneys also asked for a hearing on the admissibility of any classified evidence under the federal Classified Information Procedures Act, which Griffin argued would further delay the start of trial.
The government's request for more time would effectively "let these men sit in jail while the government gets to prepare their case," Griffin said, adding prosecutors should have "gotten the ball rolling" on evidence-gathering long before they arrested the Hayats June 5 on terrorism-related charges.
The government claims Hamid Hayat, 22, admitted training at a Pakistani camp to learn "how to kill Americans." Prosecutors say he initially denied, then admitted, and now denies being trained as a terrorist.
Prosecutors also claim his father, ice cream vendor Umer Hayat, 47, at first denied, then admitted, and now denies his son's involvement in terrorist training.
Prosecutors have turned over Hamid Hayat's videotaped confession to his attorney, Wazhma Mojaddadi, and to Griffin. Lapham said the government also has allowed defense attorneys to view over 2,000 pages of evidence in three foreign languages and 400 mixed-media items including CDs, cassettes and VHS tapes seized from the Hayats' Lodi home.
But Griffin dismissed those items - mostly books and magazines - as "fluff."
"It doesn't mean anything - it's a bunch of stuff," Griffin says.
Lapham responded, "With all due respect, Mr. Griffin doesn't speak Pashto, Urdu or Arabic."
"I do," said Mojaddadi, an Afghani American. "Like Mr. Griffin said, it's fluff."
Lapham noted that defense attorneys spent only 90 minutes reviewing the items seized and said it will take considerably more time to transcribe all the materials and go through the Hayats' computer.
He said authorities found a piece of paper in Hamid Hayat's pocket that included one "highly significant" line in Arabic. "There could be other things like that in the documents."
But Mojaddadi said the line found in her client's pocket was "just a prayer, a prayer that many Muslims say. A lot of the documents we saw are prayers."
Burrell set a hearing for July 15 on the government's request for more time to complete discovery, then scheduled a separate hearing Aug. 19 on the admissibility of any classified information and to designate someone with top-secret clearance to handle that evidence.
About the writer:
- The Bee's Stephen Magagnini can be reached at (916) 321-1072 or email@example.com.