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(Updates Lynch’s comment in 17th paragraph.)
July 22 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. citizen from Afghanistan was convicted of destroying evidence and conspiring to lie to investigators in the case of his son, who pleaded guilty to plotting to bomb New York City’s subways.
Mohammed Wali Zazi, 55, was convicted today by a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, on its second day of deliberations. Prosecutors said he directed family members to destroy bomb- making materials, including liquid chemicals, that were part of the probe into his son, and that he conspired with family members to lie to agents looking into the subway plot in 2009.
U.S. District Judge John Gleeson set a Dec. 2 sentencing date. Zazi faces as long as 40 years in prison.
“The evidence has shown that the defendant did everything he could to manipulate the system to get what he wanted,” which was to protect his son, his family and himself, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Marrus said in her closing argument on July 20.
Justine Harris, one of Zazi’s lawyers, declined to immediately comment on the verdict.
Zazi’s son, Najibullah Zazi, pleaded guilty in February 2010 to supporting al-Qaeda and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in a 2009 plot to detonate bombs on New York subways around the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
A co-conspirator, Zarien Ahmedzay, pleaded guilty to his role in the foiled subway plot in April 2010. Ahmedzay and Najibullah Zazi face life in prison.
A third man, Adis Medunjanin, pleaded not guilty in August 2010 to participating in the subway plot.
The elder Zazi, a former New York City taxi driver who lives in the Denver area, was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Deborah A. Colson, another of Zazi’s lawyers, told jurors during the trial that Zazi’s nephew and brother-in-law, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice under cooperation agreements and testified for the government, were responsible for the wrongdoing.
“We are very disappointed in the verdict,” Colson said in an e-mailed statement today. “We plan to appeal. We will keep fighting for Mr. Zazi. This is not over yet.”
The trial began July 18.
Naqib Jaji, the brother-in-law, testified that in July 2009 Najibullah Zazi left chemicals, including bleach and nail-polish remover, in the garage of Jaji’s house in Aurora, Colorado, where Najibullah was living. Najibullah told Jaji he planned to use them to make a fertility drug, Jaji testified.
Amanullah Zazi, the nephew, testified that he went to Jaji’s house to participate in a cover-up of bomb-making materials, acting under orders of the elder Zazi.
Prosecutors said Mohammed Wali Zazi lied to investigators when he said he didn’t speak with a Queens, New York, imam, who was also a police informant, about a trip Najibullah Zazi took to New York. The jurors heard evidence of four phone conversations Mohammed Wali Zazi and the imam had in September 2009.
The defendant also lied when he said his nephew, who investigators were looking into, was his adopted son, the government said.
“This defendant sought to conceal one of the most serious terror plots in recent times,” U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn said in a statement after the verdict. “He also enlisted others to help him spin his web of lies and to destroy key evidence.”
Mohammed Wali Zazi will also be prosecuted separately for visa fraud, according to Lynch’s statement.
The case is U.S. v. Zazi, 1:10-cr-60, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
--With assistance from Tiffany Kary and Chris Dolmetsch in New York. Editors: Mary Romano, Andrew Dunn
To contact the reporter on this story: Thom Weidlich in Brooklyn, New York, federal court at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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