Defense attorneys entered not guilty pleas Tuesday in Sacramento federal court on behalf of Hamid Hayat and his father, Umer Hayat, who are charged with lying to FBI agents about their alleged ties to terrorist training camps in Pakistan.
After the pleas were submitted, Umer Hayat's attorney, Johnny Griffin III, went on the offensive, asking U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter A. Nowinski to schedule an immediate conference where defense attorneys and prosecutors would discuss the government's evidence.
Obviously taken aback by the unusual request, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Tice-Raskin objected to a conference so soon after arraignment, but the judge set the conference for Friday.
The Hayats were arrested more than two weeks ago in connection with an FBI terrorist investigation in which three Pakistani men from Lodi also have been detained. Muhammed Adil Khan, 47, his son, Mohammad Hassan Adil, 19, and Shabbir Ahmed, 42, are being held without bail on alleged immigration violations.
The Hayats, wearing bright orange jail coveralls, were in handcuffs and ankle shackles and were led by deputy U.S. marshals into the courtroom. To accommodate a crowd of about 100 media representatives and spectators, the arraignment was held in the cavernous ceremonial courtroom on the 16th floor of the federal courthouse.
Both men sat grim-faced before the judge.
Nowinski first asked for Hamid Hayat's plea, and his attorney, Wazhna Mojaddidi, said, "He is going to plead not guilty on both counts."
The judge then asked for Umer Hayat's plea and Griffin responded with a crisp "Not guilty."
Hamid Hayat, a 22-year-old with a rail-thin body and sunken eyes, is charged in a grand jury indictment with two counts of making a false statement to FBI agents.
Umer Hayat, a bespectacled 47-year-old with flecks of gray dotting his beard and hair, is charged with one count of making a false statement to FBI agents.
If convicted, they face a maximum of eight years on each count.
Outside the courthouse after the arraignment, Griffin told a crowd of reporters that he is frustrated. "My client has been labeled a terrorist by the government, painted as a terrorist, but not charged as a terrorist.
"If he is a terrorist, I want to see the evidence now," Griffin said. "And if there is no evidence, quit saying it."
He said his strategy could be fairly characterized as "holding the government's feet to the fire."
"I want to know what type of evidence to expect, how much and when I will get it," he said.
The indictment says Hamid Hayat was lying when he denied to agents on June 3 "that he was not involved in any way with any type of terrorist organization."
He told the agents he never attended a terrorist or jihadist training camp in Pakistan, "when, in truth and in fact, as he then well knew, he had attended one or more jihadist terrorist training camps in Pakistan," the indictment alleges.
A second count alleges Hamid Hayat was lying on June 4 when he told agents he "never received any training directed toward a Jihad against the United States, and that he never received any weapons training at a jihadist camp."
The third count of the indictment alleges Umer Hayat was lying on June 4 when he told agents he had "no first-hand knowledge of terrorist training camps in Pakistan that would prepare people to fight for Jihad, and that his son Hamid Hayat did not attend any terrorist or jihadist training camps."
Early on the morning of June 4, Umer Hayat was equipped by the FBI with a hidden body recorder and engaged in separate conversations with Khan, a Muslim religious leader, and Ahmed, who worked with Khan to open a religious school in Lodi.
Later that day, Khan and Ahmed were picked up by the FBI for alleged administrative violations of their visas. Adil is facing similar allegations.
Khan is scheduled to appear in immigration court July 1 in San Francisco. Adil is scheduled to appear July 29 in the same court. Ahmed is scheduled to appear Friday.
About the writer:
- The Bee's Denny Walsh can be reached at (916) 321-1189 or email@example.com.