The Case of Hamid Hayat vs. America's Post-9/11 Fears

Hamid Hayat ended up serving 14 years
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2022 4:05 PM CST
The Case of Hamid Hayat vs. America's Post-9/11 Fears
In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, Hamid Hayat wipes tears as he stands with his legal team and family members during a news conference two weeks after a judge vacated his conviction.   (Daniel Kim/The Sacramento Bee via AP, File)

"I have no ill feelings, no grudges, no anger in me. I just don’t want this to happen to anybody ever again," Hamid Hayat tells Jason Fagone, who writes at length about what Hayat has been through for the San Francisco Chronicle. Born in Lodi, California, to Pakistani immigrants, Hayat was convicted on terrorism charges at 25 and sentenced to 24 years; he served 14 years before seeing his conviction reversed in 2019. His entire case resulted from a strategy employed by the Justice Department "in hundreds of terror cases after 9/11,” whereby defendants were tried based on a likelihood that they would commit future acts of terror: In 2005 Hayat had confessed, somewhat incoherently, to attending a jihadist training camp in Pakistan after hours of questioning; he hadn't, and had plenty of people who could vouch for that.

But to the FBI, Hayat had certain hallmarks: devout, fighting age, educated in Pakistan at his own grandfather’s madrassa in a region where celebratory AK-47 bursts are common at weddings. Then again, Hayat—whose dad drove an ice-cream truck—was always regarded as “sweet but dim” and "a good-hearted slacker." He was also a confirmed blowhard, telling one undercover FBI agent that his uncle was the king of Pakistan and bragging to an informant about his knowledge of al-Qaeda training camps. Hayat’s rookie defense attorney hoped to “learn on the job.” Her failure to present any of his many alibi witnesses would prove key to Hayat’s eventual habeas corpus petition, though the problems with his trial went well beyond that. (Read the full story, an excellent piece of reporting that delves into Hayat's time in prison and what he's doing now.)

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