By Daniel Lovering
BOSTON (Reuters) - A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is confident he will beat charges he hampered the investigation into the blasts, one of his attorneys said on Monday, citing a "lack of evidence" in the case.
Attorney Matthew Myers said his client, Azamat Tazhayakov, had rejected a deal with prosecutors for a reduced sentence and believes the government's case is "beatable."
"He knows he isn't guilty. He's confident," Myers told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Boston. "I think everybody will be shocked, even just the average juror in Boston will be shocked at the lack of evidence in this case."
Tazhayakov, 20, is one of three of Tsarnaev's college friends accused of hampering the investigation. Authorities say they went to the suspect's dormitory room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth three days after the April 15, 2013, attack and removed a laptop and backpack containing empty fireworks casings.
Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, a Kazakh exchange student, were charged with obstruction of justice and could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. A third friend, Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, faces up to 16 years if convicted of the less serious charge of lying to investigators.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were first questioned by investigators four days after the bombing, when heavily armed law enforcement agents arrived at their New Bedford, Massachusetts, apartment. The next day, they were arrested on charges of violating the terms of their student visas.
Three people were killed and 264 injured in the bombing at the historic Boston Marathon.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock said jury selection would begin on June 30 from a pool of hundreds of potential jurors. He said he expected Tazhayakov's trial to begin on July 3.
Defense attorneys contend that statements Tazhayakov made under interrogation were involuntary. Woodlock warned that if he found at trial that the suspect's statements had been involuntary, he would declare a mistrial.
Tsarnaev, who also is accused of killing a university police officer in a shootout three days after the bombings, is awaiting trial in a prison west of Boston. He faces the possibility of execution if convicted.