Sister of Boston bomb suspects pleads not guilty in drug case

Reuters News
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Posted: May 28, 2013 11:56 PM
Sister of Boston bomb suspects pleads not guilty in drug case

By David Jones

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - A sister of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in a Hackensack, New Jersey, court to marijuana-related charges, her attorney said.

Bella Tsarnaeva, 24, was arrested in December 2012 at her Fairview, New Jersey, apartment after police responded to a call about a domestic disturbance and found what they said was marijuana, said her attorney, Mario Blanch.

The Record said police searched the apartment after smelling marijuana and that Tsarnaeva was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Her live-in boyfriend, Ahmad Khalil, also pleaded not guilty to the same charge on Tuesday, the newspaper reported.

Authorities have not linked Bella Tsarnaeva, whose family is from the Chechnya region of Russia, to the Boston Marathon bombings. Her drug-related case has gained nationwide prominence after her brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were accused in the April 15 bomb attack that killed three people and wounded 264 during the Boston Marathon.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in an April 19 shootout with police in Watertown, Massachusetts. Dzhokar, 19, was captured the next night, hiding in a boat in Watertown.

Bella Tsarnaeva's last name is spelled with an "a" on the end, unlike her brothers'.

Blanch told Reuters that Tsarnaeva has applied to a diversionary treatment program, which could allow her to avoid a criminal record if she stays out of trouble for 12 months.

He said Tsarnaeva has relocated from her apartment since the arrest of her brother Dzhokhar, who could get the death penalty if convicted in the bombing.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Bill Trott)