Girlfriend says she told accused Boston bomber's friend to dump backpack

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 07, 2014 7:08 AM

By Daniel Lovering

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Kazakh woman said in a videotaped deposition shown in court on Wednesday she demanded that her boyfriend dispose of a backpack containing empty fireworks shells he had taken from the college dorm room of his friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber.

The testimony came on the third day of the trial of Azamat Tazhayakov, a Kazakh exchange student who was one of three friends of Tsarnaev who prosecutors have charged with hampering the investigation by removing the backpack from the suspect's room and tossing it into a dumpster.

Bayan Kumiskali, a Kazakh national and a student at Babson College outside Boston, said she had been staying at the New Bedford, Massachusetts, apartment of her boyfriend, Dias Kadyrbayev, when he told her about the backpack he had taken three days after the deadly blasts while police were searching for Tsarnaev. The blasts killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev have both been charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy for taking the backpack and a laptop. They are being tried separately at U.S. District Court in Boston, with Kadyrbayev's trial scheduled for later in the year.

Kumiskali, who faces no criminal charges, testified that she "started getting all crazy" about the backpack after viewing images that the FBI released of Tsarnaev on April 18, 2013, asking the public's help in identifying and finding the suspect.

"I said I didn't want it in the apartment, just get it out of the apartment," she testified. "I said if there's ever a possibility the person on the TV might be Dzhokhar, then whatever this is might be evidence."

Kumiskali and Kadyrbayev are also citizens of Kazakhstan.

Kadyrbayev later told her he had gotten rid of the backpack, but did not say where he put it, she said. Kumiskali said she also saw a laptop computer in the apartment and was told it belonged to Tsarnaev.

Prosecutors contend Tazhayakov, Kadyrbayev and a third friend, Robel Phillipos, took the laptop and backpack in an attempt to cover up for their friend.

Tazhayakov's attorneys have said their client never touched the laptop or backpack, contending that Kadyrbayev did so.

The three men are not charged with any role in the bombing.

Tazhayakov could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy. Kadyrbayev faces the same charges. Phillipos is accused of the lesser charge of lying to investigators.

Tsarnaev's college roommate, Andrew Dwinells, also took the witness stand, saying the accused Boston Marathon bomber once called the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States a hoax but showed no signs of extremist views.

Dwinells said he recalled Tsarnaev watching a documentary about the Sept. 11 attacks and saying he believed them to be a conspiracy carried out by the U.S. government.

Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who immigrated to the United States a decade ago, suggested in a note written before his capture that the attack was retaliation for U.S. military action overseas, writing, "We Muslims are one body. You kill one of us, you hurt us all."

Tsarnaev is awaiting trial on charges that carry the death penalty if convicted.

(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Will Dunham)