U.S. Terrorism Cases: Beyond Jose Padilla

The U.S. government is pursuing charges against terrorism suspects in other cases around the country. One of those cases involves seven Miami men initially accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

There are several other terrorism-related cases underway around the country. And here with a brief update on them is NPR's Wade Goodwyn. Hi, Wade.

WADE GOODWYN: Hello, Madeleine.

BRAND: Well, so on Friday there was a big development in the terror case of Hamid Hayat. And he's the guy in Lodi, California - he was convicted of lying to federal agents, providing material support to terrorists.

And I understand that one of the jurors is now saying that the jury foreman already made up his mind before the evidence was presented.

GOODWYN: Yeah. The judge in the Lodi case heard the testimony from Joseph Cote. Now, he's a 65-year-old retired salesman from Folsom, California. He was the jury foreman, and he's accused by another juror of making gestures during the trial, mimicking the tightening of a noose around a man's neck - you know, pulling the rope up with your hand - and saying hang him in a low voice during jury deliberations.

And Arcelia Lopez - she's a 44-year-old nurse, a juror - now says that she was bullied by Cote into voting Hamid Hayat guilty on the government's most important accusation, the one you mentioned: providing material support to terrorists.

Now, Lopez's regret about her vote is not what's important here legally. It's whether there is meaningful evidence that one of the jurors actually had made up his or her mind before hearing all the evidence. That's a violation of their oath, and it could be grounds for a new trial.

BRAND: And this case provoked criticism along the way during the trial itself, on the part of the prosecutors and the methods that they undertook, the targets that it chose; tell us more about that.

GOODWYN: It's not the only case. The Lodi case, the case in Florida of a group called the Miami Seven - there have been accusations that paid government informants are actually entrapping the accused, and that because of the way the informants goad the defendants on, that the informants actually become the leading co-conspirators.

And so the question being posed: are these people who would ever actually conceive of a terrorist plot themselves, or somebody who just might go along with some plot if somebody else thought it up and made it happen?

BRAND: Wade, let's talk about that Miami case you mentioned, the so-called Miami Seven. Remind us who they are and what they're accused of.

GOODWYN: It's a case against five U.S. citizens, one permanent resident and one Haitian national, and they're accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower, but even the government admits this group didn't have the wherewithal to do that.

BRAND: Okay, so how strong is the government's case?

GOODWYN: I think we want to be careful about characterizing a case before it goes to trial, but the Justice Department has taken real heat in the Florida media; that can't be challenged. The defendants are black street vendors. It was informants who provided some of the means of the alleged terrorist acts. For example, in order to photograph potential terror targets, the informants had to supply the defendants with both the cameras and the transportation. And that raises the question again: could these guys have done anything without the government's assistance?

And the motives of the informants are being questioned. One was given political asylum for cooperating with the Feds. Another informant was facing federal gun charges; they were paid thousands of dollars. Florida newspaper editors and columnists have been contemptuous of this prosecution, and I'd say it's a pretty close question as to who's been getting worse PR, the Justice Department or the defendants.

BRAND: Okay, Wayde, finally, in Ohio, Christopher Paul indicted last week on charges of providing material support to terrorists. And tell us more about that case.

GOODWYN: Paul is accused of conspiring in the late 1980s and early 1990s with al-Qaida. It's alleged he joined al-Qaida, that he stayed in an al-Qaida guesthouse, and then in 1999 gave some explosives training to other possible terrorists while he was in Germany. The government has identified no specific targets as to what would have been attacked, but it said U.S. military installations overseas and U.S. embassies were possibilities. And if he's convicted, Christopher Paul faces life in prison.

BRAND: NPR's Wade Goodwyn. Thank you.

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