Friend of accused Boston bomber due to testify on Wednesday

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2014 7:04 AM

BOSTON (Reuters) - A man convicted of obstructing justice for removing fireworks from the accused Boston Marathon bomber's dorm room days after the deadly blasts is due in court on Wednesday to testify against a friend who prosecutors say joined him in that visit.

Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, who was a friend of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, took the stand briefly on Tuesday to testify at the trial of Robel Phillipos, 21, who has been charged with lying to investigators probing the April 15, 2013, attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.

FBI agents testified earlier in the week that Phillipos initially denied visiting Tsarnaev's dorm room three days after the attack, along with Tazhayakov and a third man, Dias Kadyrbayev, and removing a backpack containing empty fireworks shells.

He later changed his story and admitted being there, prosecution witnesses testified at U.S. District Court in Boston.

But defense lawyers argued that Phillipos had been intoxicated by marijuana that evening and had no memory of his actions, suggesting that investigators badgered him into confessing to a visit of which he had no clear recollection.

Tazhayakov, who did not testify in his own defense during his July trial, said on Tuesday that prosecutors told him that testifying in Phillipos' proceedings could earn him a lower sentence. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty in August to obstruction charges after reaching a deal with prosecutors that would cap his sentence at seven years.

Phillipos, a resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, could be sentenced to up to 16 years in federal prison if convicted of lying to investigators.

Neither Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, both Kazakh exchange students, nor Phillipos is accused of playing any role in the bombing.

Tsarnaev, 21, is awaiting a trial due to begin in January on charges that carry the threat of execution if he is convicted.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Cooney)