First Conviction in Boston Bombing 07/22 06:28
BOSTON (AP) -- The conviction of a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for impeding the investigation into the bombings has his
lawyers wondering if anyone else who faces charges connected to the 2013 attack
stands a chance of acquittal.
A federal jury on Monday found Azamat Tazhayakov guilty of obstruction of
justice and conspiracy for trying to protect Tsarnaev by agreeing with another
friend to get rid of a backpack and disable fireworks they took from his dorm
Tazhayakov's lawyers told the jury that it was the other friend, Dias
Kadyrbayev, who took the backpack and later threw it away. Prosecutors even
acknowledged that Kadyrbayev was the one who actually placed the backpack in
the trash. But the jury still convicted Tazhayakov of both charges.
One of Tazhayakov's lawyers called the verdict "somewhat surprising," while
another predicted it does not bode well for three other men charged with
obstruction of justice or lying to investigators in connection with Tsarnaev
and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a shootout with police.
"If Azamat had a difficult time here, everybody else is going to have a
worse time because Azamat had the best facts," said attorney Nicholas
Matthew Myers, another of Tazhayakov's attorneys, said it was difficult to
try a case "in this culture," a reference to the emotional impact the bombings
had on Boston and surrounding communities. Three people were killed and more
than 260 were injured when twin bombs exploded near the finish line in April
2013. At least 16 people lost limbs in the blasts.
"We understand what this town has been through ... it's hard to overcome
that bias," Myers said.
Tazhayakov faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence for obstruction and a
five-year maximum for conspiracy at his sentencing, which was scheduled for
Tsarnaev has asked that his trial be moved out of state, to Washington,
D.C., because of the intense media coverage and widespread impact of the
bombings on Massachusetts residents. A judge has not yet ruled on the request.
Four other men face trials in connection with the bombings.
Kadyrbayev will be tried in September on charges identical to those brought
against Tazhayakov. A third friend, Robel Phillipos, who is charged with lying
to investigators about being in the dorm room with Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov
the night the items were taken, is to have a separate trial in September.
A friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev is to be tried next year. Khairulluzon Matanov
is accused of lying to investigators about the extent of his friendship with
Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the contact he had with both brothers in the days
following the bombings.
The guilty verdicts for 20-year-old Tazhayakov came three years after he
arrived in the U.S. from his native Kazakhstan, hoping to get an engineering
degree at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
During his trial, FBI agents testified that Tazhayakov told them he and
Kadyrbayev decided to take the backpack, fireworks and Tsarnaev's computer
hours after Kadyrbayev received a text message from Tsarnaev that said he could
go to his dorm room and "take what's there." The items were removed after the
FBI released photos and video of the Tsarnaev brothers and identified them as
suspects in the bombings.
The backpack and fireworks later were recovered in a New Bedford landfill.
Prosecutors said the explosive powder missing from the fireworks can be used to
Myers told the jury his client was a naive college kid who was prosecuted
because he was a "friend of the bomber."
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police several days after
the bombings. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev escaped but was soon found, wounded and hiding
in a boat dry-docked in a backyard in suburban Watertown.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in
November. He faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.