A federal magistrate on Friday recommended overturning the controversial 2006 conviction of a California-based 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 United States’ (US) 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.“A reasonably competent attorney would have done more to investigate Hamid Hayat’s alibi,” US Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes said in a 116-page opinion. Her recommendation that the conviction be vacated now goes to US District Judge Garland E Burrell Jr.He presided over Hayat’s original trial, conviction and sentencing and previously rejected a defense motion over whether Hayat was properly represented at trial. Either side can appeal Burrell’s eventual decision. Barnes heard new testimony from witnesses who said Hayat, who was born in California, never had time to receive terror training while visiting relatives and getting married in his ancestral village in Pakistan.Barnes also found that Hayat’s defense attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, should have put on evidence from an expert on false confessions who could have countered prosecutors’ claim that Hayat confessed. Wazhma Mojaddidi, an immigration and family law attorney who was trying her first criminal case, said she “passionately represented Hayat as a young attorney and worked with a great team of lawyers and investigators in his defense”.She said in a statement that she always has believed he is innocent and is elated by Barnes’ recommendation. Prosecutors are reviewing the magistrate’s recommendation, US Attorney McGregor Scott said.“It has consistently been our position that Hayat received effective representation at trial and that his conviction by a jury, subsequently affirmed by the Ninth Circuit, is completely valid,” he said in a statement.One of the three appellate judges dissented when the court upheld Hayat’s conviction in 2013, saying jurors erred in convicting Hayat based on predictions of what he might have done. Hayat’s attorneys said Barnes’ opinion goes beyond finding that his conviction should be overturned.Published in Daily Times, January 13th 2019.