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3 friends of Tsarnaev charged

3:44 PM, May 1, 2013   |    comments
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BOSTON --   Three friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been charged with conspiring to obstruct justice and lying to investigators after they concluded the teenager was involved in the April 15 attack.

None of the three are suspected of having advance knowledge of the plot or participating in the planning of the bombings, according to a law enforcement source.

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both 19 and from Kazakhstan, are accused of obstruction of justice and conspiring to conceal evidence, including Tsarnaev's backpack and laptop computer. A third, Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge, is charged with making materially false statements to federal law enforcement officials during a terrorism investigation.

The three appeared in a federal court Wednesday afternoon in Boston and are being held in detention until a Monday hearing. If convicted, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face up to five years in prison and $250,000 fines. Phillipos faces up to eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, has already been charged in connection with the bombings that killed three people and injured 264. He was wounded following a shootout with police and later captured hiding in a trailered boat at a Watertown, Mass., home. Tsarnaev's 26-year-old brother Tamerlan, died in a shootout with police three days after the attack.

According to the federal complaint, the backpack that Tazhayakov, Kadyrbayev and Phillipos found in Tsarnaev's University of Massachusetts Dartmouth dorm room contained fireworks from which explosive powder had been emptied. Investigators have said at least one of the bombs was a pressure cooker packed with explosive powder and metal parts.

According to court documents, on the night the FBI released photographs of the Tsarnaevs near the bomb site, the friends suspected Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was involved in the attack.

Federal agents released the photos of the two at 5 p.m. April 18. Between 6 to 7 p.m., Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos went to Tsarnaev's dorm room, the affidavit says. Tsarnaev's roommate said Tsarnaev had left a few hours earlier, but let them in to watch a movie.

Around 8:45 p.m., Kadyrbayev texted Tsarnaev and told him he looked like one of the suspects.

Tsarnaev texted back "lol" and "come to my room and take what you want," the affidavit said.

The three men returned to the New Bedford apartment and watched news reports. Kadyrbayev said around 10 p.m., they decided as a group to put the backpack and fireworks in the trash "because they did not want Tsarnaev to get in trouble,'' the affidavit says.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov "admitted that they agreed to get rid of it after concluding from news reports that Tsarnaev was one of the Boston Marathon bombers,'' the documents said.

Kadyrbayev "decided to take Tsarnaev's laptop as well because he did not want Tsarnaev's roommate to think he was stealing or behaving suspiciously by just taking the backpack,'' the documents said.

The backpack was later recovered from a New Bedford landfill, partially enclosed in a black garbage bag. Inside the pack, according to the court documents, federal agents recovered fireworks, a jar of Vaseline and a homework assignment sheet from one of Tsarnaev's classes.

Phillipos initially told investigators that he had not gone to Tsarnaev's dorm room and had instead was sleeping at the New Bedford apartment. But Phillipos admitted in an April 26 interview that he did accompany the other men to Tsarnaev's dorm room and saw seven red tubular fireworks in Tsarnaev's backpack.

Tazhayakov also told FBI agents that Tsarnaev had mentioned a month earlier that he knew how to make a bomb. Moreover, a day before the FBI released photos of the suspects, Kadyrbayev met Tsarnaev outside his dorm room and noticed Tsarnaev had a new, short haircut.

Kadyrbayev first met Tsarnaev in the fall of 2011 at the university and became close the following spring, he told investigators. "They spent a great deal of time socializing and Kadyrbayev repeatedly visited Tsarnaev's home and met his family members," the affidavit said.

Lawyers representing the two Kazakh students in immigration court Wednesday morning on unrelated visa issues said that they had cooperated with Homeland Security and FBI investigators for hours and were only college friends of Tsarnaev and should be released, The Boston Globe reported.

The two have been held in a county jail for more than a week on allegations that they violated their student visas.
BY: Kevin Johnson and Doug Stanglin/USA Today

Gannett/USA Today

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