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Terrorism Trial Hits a Roadblock

Jury can't reach accord in case against a Lodi man, and separate panel is having problems with some of the allegations against the man's son.

April 25, 2006|Rone Tempest | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — In a possible sign of trouble for prosecutors, a federal jury reported Monday that it was unable to reach a decision in the case against Lodi ice cream truck driver Umer Hayat, who is accused of lying to the FBI about his son's attendance at a terrorism training camp in Pakistan.

Earlier, a separate jury in the case against the son, Hamid Hayat, also signaled that it was having problems with at least part of the government case. Late Friday, that jury sent U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell a note reporting difficulties with some of the charges.

Burrell, citing its possible adverse effect on the father's case, ordered the note sealed.

On Monday afternoon, the son's jury asked to hear a reading from the transcript of an FBI agent who interrogated Hamid Hayat during a marathon session at FBI headquarters in Sacramento last June.

Harry J. Sweeney, a 21-year FBI veteran, got Hamid Hayat to admit that he attended a training camp after suggesting that the FBI had satellite pictures of Hayat at the camp. Under cross-examination, Sweeney admitted that the FBI had no such pictures and that he was using an interrogation tactic to get Hayat to talk.

The Hamid Hayat jury will hear a read-back of Sweeney's testimony this morning.

On Monday, the jury in the father's case listened to transcripts of testimony from three FBI agents. But only 30 minutes later, the jury reported that it could not reach a decision.

After reading the jury's note in open court Monday afternoon, Burrell asked the panel of eight women and four men to resume deliberations to see if they could break the deadlock. If they fail to reach agreement, the case that has taken two months to try would end in a mistrial. There is no indication whether the government would retry the case.

Defense attorneys, meanwhile, are still holding out hope for acquittal.

"I remain hopeful they will come back with a not-guilty verdict," said Johnny L. Griffin, who represents the father.

Coming into the courtroom Monday afternoon, Umer Hayat, 48, dressed in a dark suit and spectacles, managed a rare smile when Griffin informed him of the deadlock.

Unlike other highly publicized terrorism cases, the Hayats have been models of decorum in the courtroom, seldom showing any emotion.

In the most serious claim against the Lodi father and son, Hamid Hayat, 23, is charged with attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in late 2003 and returning to the United States two years later "awaiting orders" to commit jihad against his fellow Americans.

Both men are charged with lying to the FBI. If convicted, Hamid Hayat faces up to 39 years in prison and his father faces up to 16 years.

The Hamid Hayat jury, made up of six men and six women, has been deliberating for eight days. The Umer Hayat jury had been deliberating almost seven full days when it announced its impasse.

Before it left for the day Monday, the Hamid Hayat jury asked Burrell for a vacuum cleaner to tidy up the jury deliberation room.

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