Judge Recommends Vacating The Sentence Of One Of The FBI's Handcrafted Terrorists

from the well...-half-the-sentence-has-already-been-served-so... dept

Nearly 13 years after the FBI managed to turn a California cherry picker into a international terrorist, one of its self-created terrorists is about to be turned back into regular California resident, albeit one missing more than a decade from his life.

Hayat went to Pakistan in 2003 to visit his mother and get married. The FBI and prosecutors insisted he went there to train to be a terrorist. When he returned to the US, he was arrested and indicted. Prosecutors tacked on some lying to federal agents charges because of course they did, pushing Hayat's sentence to 24 years.

This conviction was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but Hayat's motion to vacate his sentence has found some sympathy from a federal magistrate judge.

A federal magistrate on Friday recommended overturning the controversial 2006 conviction of a California man accused of attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and plotting an attack in the United States.

Hamid Hayat, now 36, who was then a young cherry-picker from Lodi, has served about half his 24-year sentence.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes said he likely never would have been convicted were it not for the inexperience of his defense attorney, who failed to call alibi witnesses.

Hayat's lawyer was clearly inexperienced, having never defended a client during a criminal trial before. The results speak for themselves. Judge Barnes' examination of the case shows Hayat was possibly coerced into a false confession and had a decent alibi for his visit to Pakistan that -- if explored more fully -- would likely have shown the FBI's speculations about his reason for returning to Pakistan were wrong.

His attorneys argue that much of the evidence used against him was faulty, including prosecution claims that Hayat attended a terror training camp in Balakot, Pakistan, in 2003 and 2004 – a facility they say had been shut down before Hayat even got to Pakistan.

Hayat's confession was obtained during a "marathon" questioning session by FBI agents. This apparently included a special agent lying about the evidence the FBI had on Hayat's supposed terrorist training.

According to court testimony, the Hayats were interviewed twice by the FBI. The first time, they both denied they knew anything about terrorism. But during a second interview at Sacramento FBI headquarters, after many hours of grilling without a lawyer, Hamid Hayat changed his story and confessed he attended a terrorist training camp for about three months. The jury asked for a read-back of FBI Special Agent Harry Sweeney’s trial testimony.

Sweeney testified that Hamid Hayat admitted to going to the camp after Sweeney asked him, “Would there be any reason why we would have a satellite image of you at a camp in 2003?”

Under cross-examination, Sweeney acknowledged there was no such photo.

Unfortunately, there's nothing illegal about federal agents lying to suspects during questioning. But there's certainly a law against lying to federal agents. The background of the case suggests the FBI may have been looking for something -- anything -- to justify its infiltration of a local mosque by one its surprisingly-expensive informants.

Naseem Khan claimed to have seen four of the world's most-wanted terrorists in Lodi, California. Over the course of three years, the FBI paid Khan $230,000 to infiltrate a local mosque, despite discovering his claims of seeing top world terrorists were completely false. It was Khan who suggested Hayat visit a terrorist training camp while visiting Pakistan. The government apparently had no evidence Hayat ever visited a training camp, relying almost solely on a confession that appears to have been coerced.

The court says there's not much here that makes the FBI look like a competent anti-terrorism force. There's a questionable confession, an even more questionable informant telling people to engage in terrorist activities, and a bunch of speculation about Hayat's activities while not under direct surveillance. As the judge points out, citizens shouldn't be locked up for things the FBI THINKS they may have done. More evidence is needed and a more competent attorney might have been able to stop this farce before it took more than a decade away from Hamid Hayat.

Filed Under: 9th circuit, doj, fake terrorists, false confession, fbi, hamid hayat, harry sweeney, own plot, terrorism


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  1. identicon
    Annonymouse, 16 Jan 2019 @ 9:40am

    So does he get to sue the US GOV for the equivalent rate of what they paid their informant?

    As for the lies, incompetence, and out and out racism shown on all fronts from the agents all the way to the judge who should have stopped the dog and poney show in his courtroom.... I highly doubt any will pay any price for this outside of the taxpayer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2019 @ 9:55am

    Without knowing the exact details of this case, it's worth noting that many (if not most or all) so called "terrorist" training camps in Pakistan were established, operated, and funded by the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It's not unimaginable that the CIA is not still deeply connected to that resistance movement, and is now using such training camps as "honey pots" just like the many blatantly "jihadist" websites that inexplicably never seem to get taken down.

    If evidence against someone was through CIA or other intelligence sources, naturally they're not going to use it and risk exposing their sources. Instead they'll manufacture other "evidence" to use in court and perhaps even have secret back-channel with the prosecutor and judge (at least that's the way it's done in Israel).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Jason Yarber, 16 Jan 2019 @ 10:36am

    Re:

    I don't think he can sue the US Gov't as it has Sovereignty. However, he is free to sue the FBI for false arrest and damages resulting. I think he can also sue his old incompetent lawyer for malpractice under incompetence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 16 Jan 2019 @ 11:25am

    There's not much here that makes the FBI look like a competent anti-terrorism force

    Do we have any real-world evidence that the FBI may be a competent anti-terrorism force?

    This, like all their known anti-terror actions seems more to suggest they're hunting phantoms and trying to justify an inflated budget.

    Heck they seem so adamant about their stings on middle-easterners that they ignore entirely our domestic terrorism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2019 @ 11:43am

    Re:

    "Heck they seem so adamant about their stings on middle-easterners that they ignore entirely our domestic terrorism"

    Maybe it's a result of watching too many Hollywood films, including movies that have Arab terrorists shoehorned into a story in a completely out of place fashion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    wshuff (profile), 16 Jan 2019 @ 12:17pm

    This article says that a U.S. Magistrate Judge recommended granting the motion to vacate. If this is a report and recommendation, then that means the magistrate handled this motion and has now made this recommendation to the District Judge, who will issue a ruling after the U.S. Attorney has a change to respond to the Magistrate’s recommendation. So there’s still a long way to go for the defendant. The District Judge doesn’t have to accept the recommendation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    wshuff (profile), 16 Jan 2019 @ 12:18pm

    Derp. After the U.S. Attorney has a “chance” to respond, not “change.”

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Jan 2019 @ 2:52pm

    Our biggest problem is and remains that we reward them for headlines.
    Our 'leadership' cares more about headlines & good press, so we have these show trials convicting people of horrible crimes they imaged had to have happened.
    Man with an IQ of around 60 (IIRC) put into motion a bomb plot to blow up a federal building?? And the media gave them pats on the back for "protecting" us.

    The 'leadership' demands everything be big, showy, and not have any chance of the accused fighting back. Abacus charged as part of the banking collapse... a tiny tiny bank who operated a bit differently but within the rules... Goldman Sachs, well we decided to not bring the case because the jury would be confused by all of the experts & jargon. (Ignore the asshat who made this decision is now in-house counsel for Goldman Sachs.) Lives ruined, bail out cash giving no interest loans for CEO's wives, homes stolen by companies with no interest in the properties, and nothing done to stop them from doing it again.

    We need to stop only 'rewarding' slam dunk show trials, sometimes investigations are messy & not super clear & clean but when we decline to investigate or bring to justice those who have power & influence so we can keep our same level of funding the system is horribly broken.

    Its a pity it is only 1 person freed from a show trial conviction to secure more funding when there are so many others in jail for nothing more than securing the budget.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Bergman (profile), 16 Jan 2019 @ 7:47pm

    Re: Re:

    I've always wondered how, given that our government is a representative republic and our officials represent us rather than own us, the government can be sovereign over its own bosses.

    That would be like claiming that your boss can't discipline you if you screw up as an employee because you own a couple shares of company stock. And yet, courts just eat this crap up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 17 Jan 2019 @ 5:41am

    It was Elvis for sure

    Wow. I want to be a highly paid government informant, too. Hey FBI, if I say I saw the great terrorist "Elvis" in my town, can I get paid like that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    bwburke94 (profile), 17 Jan 2019 @ 7:36am

    Apparently Hayat was a cherry picker.

    But are we sure the FBI wasn't the one doing the cherry-picking?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2019 @ 8:25am

    He's a Witch - Burn Him!

    "The court says there's not much here that makes the FBI look like a competent anti-terrorism force."

    The court should have said that pretty much everything here makes the FBI look like an incompetent version of the Spanish Inquisition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Personanongrata, 17 Jan 2019 @ 12:29pm

    Secret Evidence and Secret Courts is Tyranny

    Judge Recommends Vacating The Sentence Of One Of The FBI's Handcrafted Terrorists

    In a nation that supposedly operates it's justice system under the auspices of rule of law all FBI's Handcrafted Terrorists would be released forthwith and all persons found responsible for railroading/entrapping them with secret evidence would be called to answer for their criminal acts before a jury of their peers.

    The terrorists responsible for murdering/torturing of millions of human beings in the later part of the 20th century and beginning of 21st century can be found at:

    • 1600 Pennsylvania Ave Washington DC
    • The US Capitol Building Washington DC
    • The Pentagon across the Potomac River in Arlington Virginia
    • The Central Intelligence Agency across the Potomac River in Langley Virginia

    These are the places the world's worst terrorists can be found. The only thing missing is the political will power (ie spine) to bring the terrorists to justice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 17 Jan 2019 @ 2:29pm

    The failure of the rule of law.

    It sounds like you're making the Pirates and Emperors argument, that we hold small criminals accountable for crimes against humanity, overlooking large criminals. It was less of a concern during the middle ages in which lords and kings governed by divine right, but yes, our modern nations like to pretend they are governed by rule of law.

    The problem is we only selectively enforce our laws, and officials and the aristocracy continue to evade justice.

    They will continue to do so until we recognize the castes in our society and that we are still ruled by lords, not law.

    Our peerless leader has, more than once, made it clear he believes in divine right but then it's part of any racist philosophy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2019 @ 2:42pm

    Gee, i don't know... what possible other reason is there for visiting Pakistan, out ally in the War on Terror, if not to go to a terrorist training facility?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 17 Jan 2019 @ 2:51pm

    Re:

    Oh, there are lots and lots of reasons. But training in a terrorist camp is the only one that lets us charge you with terrorism when you return to the US. So that's the one we'll accuse you of no matter what you actually did.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    DeComposer (profile), 17 Jan 2019 @ 2:55pm

    Re:

    If his sentence is vacated, that only means he'll be released from prison; it does not mean that his conviction is overturned.

    Sadly, I think there's no basis for a lawsuit unless his conviction is overturned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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