Government prosecutors upped the ante in the Lodi terrorism case Thursday with a new charge against defendant Hamid Hayat, alleging that he provided material support to terrorists by attending a jihadist training camp in Pakistan.
The latest indictment, returned by a federal grand jury Thursday morning, is the first actual terrorism charge leveled in the case.
Previously, Hayat and his father had been accused of lying to the FBI about their alleged involvement with terrorist camps in Pakistan.
Thursday's indictment reiterates the lying charges and adds a new allegation: that the 23-year-old Hamid Hayat provided "material support" and resources to terrorism, a crime that carries a possible 15-year prison sentence.
If also convicted on the two charges of lying, he could face a maximum of 31 years in prison.
The indictment, which supersedes an earlier indictment in the case, is based on "more, better, substantial evidence," said U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott.
Some of that evidence was provided by an unnamed "cooperating witness," who recorded conversations with Hamid Hayat, Scott said at a news conference Thursday.
"The Joint Terrorism Task Force has worked long and hard to build a case leading to this charge here today," said Scott, who shared the platform at the Sacramento news conference with Drew Parenti of the FBI and Charles DeMore of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Scott described the federal law against providing material support to terrorists as a basic anti-terrorism tool used in cases where no overt physical act has been committed. It outlaws support of terrorism - including receiving training to become a terrorist.
The indictment spells out the alleged material support: "Defendant Hamid Hayat attended the jihadist training camp in Pakistan, and, among other things, received training in physical fitness, firearms, and means to wage jihad." (Jihad is a holy war against enemies of Islam.)
No new charges were brought against the second defendant in the case, Umer Hayat, 47, a Lodi ice cream vendor and Hamid Hayat's father. The indictment Thursday repeated the earlier charge against him: one count of lying to a federal agent about his alleged knowledge of terrorist camps in Pakistan.
A bail hearing for both Hayats is scheduled in federal court today. Prosecutors said Thursday, however, that the charge of providing material support against Hamid Hayat virtually precludes his release on bail.
The Hayats have pleaded not guilty to making false statements. Hamid Hayat will be arraigned on the new charge today.
Defense attorney Wazhma Mojaddidi acknowledged Thursday that the new charge against her client, Hamid Hayat, will make it much more difficult for him to gain release on bail.
"There are new issues that I haven't had an opportunity to address" in court papers, she said. "I am still thinking about what I will do, but I probably will ask that the detention hearing for Hamid be continued to a future date."
Umer Hayat's attorney, Johnny Griffin III, sees the superseding indictment as a plus for his client.
"The grand jury has twice considered the evidence against Umer, and twice it has voted 'No' to charging him with giving material support to terrorists," Griffin said. "That makes the charge against him that much more marginal, and it should help him get bail."
Griffin will be in court today for a third try at gaining bail for Umer Hayat.
In his latest motion, Griffin says he has arranged for the posting of $1.213 million worth of real property in Lodi to secure his client's release and to assure he will be present for all in-court proceedings.
But, in a 38-page reply brief filed Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Robert Tice-Raskin insists that Umer Hayat and Hamid Hayat are dangerous men who will flee the country if released.
"They face likely conviction, incarceration for a period of years, during which their family will undoubtedly face tremendous financial hardship, and a lifetime of infamy here in the United States based on their misdeeds," the prosecutor's brief says. "Given this probable future, why would defendants have any reason to remain in the United States and 'face the music?' "
The FBI's Lodi investigation, which broke in early June, also targeted two imams, Muhammed Adil Khan and Shabbir Ahmed, and Adil Khan's son, Mohammad Hassan Adil. All three were jailed on immigration violations and agreed to be deported to Pakistan. Their lawyer, Saad Ahmad, said Thursday that the two Muslim clerics barely knew the Hayats.
"My clients have absolutely no connection with those people," Ahmad said. "My clients are law-abiding, respectable people and that will be shown as the case against the Hayats unfolds."
But Scott, the U.S. attorney, repeated the government's earlier assertion that the imams were dangerous because of their "extensive anti-American statements" in Pakistan before they moved to the United States.
"I don't know if we'll ever know exactly what was intended down there in Lodi," Scott said.
He conceded that prosecutors lacked the evidence to convict the imams on terrorist charges. "But we can avail ourselves of other means to protect our homeland - in this case, deportation."
In downtown Lodi Thursday afternoon, Mumtaz Khan said he doesn't believe any of the charges against the Hayats are true.
"I don't think people like the Hayats, who came here, raised a family and have been here for years, would want to do harm to this country. They came here for a better life," said Khan, who was working at his brother's Pak-India Spices store.
With the new charge Thursday, Khan fears that the already nervous Pakistani community in Lodi will feel they need to withdraw even more.
"This has affected so many lives," Khan said. "People are afraid to go places, and when they do go places they feel like they get looks."
Scott specifically addressed Lodi's large Muslim community in his comments at the news conference Thursday.
"To the people of Lodi: This investigation has targeted conduct, not people," he said.
"I am grateful to the Muslim community for their help, and we share their belief that open dialogue serves us all well in creating trust."
About the writer:
- The Bee's Dorothy Korber can be reached at (916) 321-1061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writers Denny Walsh and Lesli A. Maxwell contributed to this report.