Monday, July 21, 2014

Friend of Alleged Marathon Bomber Convicted of Obstruction, Conspiracy

Evidence photo, FBI
Almost a year ago, a federal grand jury indicted two friends of Boston Marathon bombing defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The charges related to their alleged attempt to dispose of evidence incriminating their chum. (See New Charges in the Boston Marathon Bombing Case.) The verdict for one of the two young men, Azamat Tazhayakov, is in: guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

Covering Up

Under the prosecution’s theory, another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, texted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev three days after the tragedy, on April 18, 2013. Kadyrbayev wrote that the person depicted in a recently released police photo resembled Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev responded with “Better not text me my friend” and “LOL.” (“Text messages show marathon bombing suspect . . . .”) Prosecutors also claim that Tsarnaev wrote, “If yu want yu can go to my room and take what’s thereJ but ight bro Salam aleikum.” They say that Kadyrbayev showed this message to Tazhayakov.

According to the prosecution, the two young men then went to their friend’s University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth dorm room. There they removed several items, including a laptop and a backpack that contained fireworks, a jar of Vaseline, and other items. Kadyrbayev subsequently threw the backpack in a dumpster. (Federal agents eventually found the pack in a landfill.)

Inactive Participant?

The official story holds that Kadyrbayev was more active than Tazhayakov in the post-bombing course of events. Tazhayakovdefense, which didn’t call any witnesses, argued that it was Kadyrbayev who disposed of the evidence. 

But under the law, it was enough for Tazhayakov to agree to and go along with the plan without being the primary actor. (See Conspiracy: Laws and Penalties and What is criminal obstruction?) Federal jurors apparently didn’t accept the defense’s version, that Tazhayakov did nothing more than sit idly, watching a movie with another friend in Tsarnaev’s room while Kadyrbayev took the backpack. The jury did, however, acquit Tazhayakov in relation to the removed laptop. (“Azamat Tazhayakov . . . guilty of impeding probe.”)

Tazhayakov, 19 at the time of his alleged crimes, faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence at his October 16 sentencing. Kadyrbayev is in line for an early September trial date, while Robel Phillipos—the other friend who may have watched that movie with Tazhayakov—is slated for late September. The federal government has charged Phillipos with lying to federal investigators.

Tsarnaev’s trial is scheduled for November. He faces the death penalty.