Jury selection started Tuesday for the trial of an ice cream vendor and his son who are charged in a federal terrorism investigation.
Umer Hayat, 47, and Hamid Hayat, 23, are among five members of the region's Pakistani community arrested last summer after a nearly three-year terrorism investigation. The others, two local imams and a son of one of the religious leaders, have since been deported to Pakistan on immigration violations.
The case has had people in suspense in Lodi, a quiet agricultural city just south of Sacramento that is known for its wines and annual grape festival.
"Everyone was wondering, is there a terrorist cell?" Mayor Susan Hitchcock said.
Hamid Hayat is charged with lying to the FBI about attending a terrorism camp in Pakistan in 2003 and 2004. His father is charged with lying when he denied his son had attended such a camp. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The Hayats, who are U.S. citizens, will be tried together but with separate juries because prosecutors say their statements implicate each other.
They were arrested in June shortly after returning from Pakistan. If convicted, the younger Hayat faces up to 31 years in prison, while the elder Hayat could receive eight years in prison.
Their trial is expected to show how the Lodi arrests fit into the federal government's efforts to track down suspected terrorists on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Nationwide, 407 people have been charged with domestic and foreign terrorism-related crimes since the attacks, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Of those, 228 have been convicted or pleaded guilty.
Federal investigators began examining the Pakistani community in and around Lodi shortly after 9/11. About 2,500 people of Pakistani descent call the area home. Most are descendants of laborers who began arriving in the early 1900s to work in the area's orchards and packing plants.
A government informant infiltrated the area's Muslim community, and by August 2002 had the first recorded conversation with Hamid Hayat. It is among about 1,000 hours of tapes turned over to defense lawyers.
Hamid Hayat spent half his life attending school and living with relatives in Pakistan. According to a federal indictment, he left for Pakistan in April 2003 and attended an al Qaeda training camp outside the city of Rawalpindi between October 2003 and November 2004.
The informant recorded Hayat before he left for Pakistan and again after he arrived. The younger Hayat said he had been accepted at a camp that provided training in weapons and explosives and hand-to-hand combat, according to the indictment.
Authorities claim he planned to attack hospitals and supermarkets in the United States.
In interviews and court testimony, relatives say Hamid Hayat was sent to Pakistan to find purpose and a wife. By the time he returned to the United States, he was married and arranging to bring his new wife home.
Defense attorneys say their clients were pressured by investigators and should have had attorneys and interpreters present when they were interrogated.
In Lodi, residents say the town has returned to normal in the nine months since the arrests. They say they plan to monitor the court proceedings carefully to see what evidence the government presents.
"The neighborhood's the same. It's all peaceful again," said Karina Murillo, whose family rented part of the elder Hayat's house, which had been divided into two residences. "It's hard for us to believe because we've known them. We never saw anything suspicious or anything until the FBI showed up."