Hearing set for accused Boston bomber's friends in cover-up case

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 10, 2014 5:04 AM

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for three college friends of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who prosecutors say interfered with the investigation into the attack, are due in court on Monday to brief a judge on their readiness for a June trial.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock in January denied a joint request by federal prosecutors and two of the three defendants to delay the trial until early 2015, saying the case was "not that complex."

Prosecutors say Kazakh exchange students Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, and Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, went to Tsarnaev's Massachusetts dorm room three days after the attack and removed a laptop computer and empty fireworks casings.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy for removing the bag, while Phillipos is charged with lying to investigators. All three have pleaded not guilty.

Attorneys for the Kadyrbayev and Phillipos asked the judge in January for more time to review government evidence generated by the massive investigation into the April 15 bombing that killed three people and injured 264.

The bombing was the largest mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Judge Woodlock earlier advised attorneys on both sides to focus their attention on evidence directly related to the trio of friends.

Three days after the marathon blasts, the FBI released photos of two men they said were suspected of planting the bombs.

Prosecutors said Tsarnaev's three college friends recognized him and contacted him by text message. Tsarnaev, they said, told them to go to his University of Massachusetts Dartmouth dorm room and take anything they wanted.

That night, according to prosecutors, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now 20, and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan attempted to escape the Boston area, shooting dead a university police officer and later engaging in gun battle with police in a nearby suburb.

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Dzhokhar ran over his older brother Tamerlan with a stolen car, leaving him dead, officials said.

The surviving brother was arrested four days after the attack and is awaiting trial due to begin November 3 on charges that carry the threat of execution if he is convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face up to 25 years in prison or deportation if convicted while Phillipos could be sentenced to up to 16 years.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Chris Francescani)