Last Friday in Sacramento, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes submitted a 116-page recommendation that the conviction of Hamid Hayat be vacated. It was Barnes’ latest attempt to free Hayat, convicted in 2006 of providing support to terrorists, in the first major prosecution of terrorism after the 9/11 attacks.
Barnes’ ruling charges that Hayat’s lawyer Wazhma Mojaddidi, a former president of the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations in Sacramento, put on an ineffective defense for Hayat. After Friday’s ruling, Mojaddidi told the Sacramento Bee, “I am elated to hear that he could be freed soon after unjustly spending so many years in prison.”
Sacramento CAIR executive director Basim Elkarra said in a statement that Hayat “did not receive a fair trial” and Dennis Riordan of Hayat’s defense team opined that Barnes’ ruling was “effectively a finding of actual innocence.” The courts have established otherwise and Friday’s ruling was the latest episode in a long campaign of strange judicial rulings and bizarre courtroom capers.
CAIR and the Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) judge-shopped Deborah Barnes, a relative newcomer to California’s Eastern District. Barnes spent much of her career in the office of California’s attorney general, where she worked on environmental issues. In effect, the judge would become a member of Hayat’s legal team.