Calif. Man Pleads Guilty in Terror Case

The Associated Press
Thursday, June 1, 2006; 5:57 AM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- An ice cream vendor charged with lying to the FBI about his son's attendance at a terrorist training camp pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, closing another chapter in a terror probe focused on a town inhabited by hundreds of people of Pakistani origin.

Umer Hayat, 48, of Lodi pleaded guilty Wednesday of trying to smuggle $28,000 in cash to Pakistan three years ago rather than face a retrial that was set to begin Monday. Prosecutors agreed to drop charges that he lied to the FBI and to recommend he serve no more jail time after spending nearly a year in custody.

"This outcome was not, of course, the one most desired by the government," U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said. "However, what is for certain is that our region is safer today than it was one year ago."

Hayat likely would have faced only a few additional months behind bars if convicted of the two lying charges, Scott said.

Hayat smiled as he left the federal courthouse, but would not comment.

"He's happy. It's over. Obviously he wants to move on with his life at this point," said defense lawyer Johnny Griffin III. "From day one we've maintained that Umer Hayat is not a terrorist, he had no involvement with terrorist related conduct or activities."

Hayat's son, Hamid Hayat, 23, faces at least 30 years in prison for supporting terrorism by attending an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan in 2003 and lying to the FBI. His sentencing was postponed indefinitely.

Umer Hayat's first trial ended in April in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked in his case. He remains under house arrest until his Aug. 18 sentencing.

The government's investigation into Lodi's 2,500-member Pakistani community began after agents received a tip in 2001 that local businesses were sending money to terrorist groups abroad.

That probe produced no results, but it eventually led to the Hayats after an informant who had targeted a pair of local imams befriended Hamid Hayat.

In recorded phone calls from the younger Hayat in Pakistan, the informant urged him to attend a terrorist camp, though defense lawyers claimed there was no evidence he ever went to such a camp.

The government presented no evidence of a terrorism network during the nine-week trial, but centered its case on videotaped confessions the two Hayats gave to FBI agents.

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