The Times West Virginian

Headline News

May 2, 2013

FBI: Three college friends removed backpack from Boston suspect’s room

BOSTON — Three college friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were arrested and accused Wednesday of trying to protect him by going into his dorm room and getting rid of a backpack filled with hollowed-out fireworks three days after the deadly attack.

The three 19-year-olds were not accused of any role in the bombing. But in a footnote in the court papers outlining the charges, the FBI said that about a month before the tragedy, Tsarnaev told two of them that he knew how to make a bomb.

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both of whom came to the U.S. from Kazakhstan, were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice by concealing and destroying evidence. Robel Phillipos, who graduated from a Cambridge high school with Tsarnaev, was charged with lying to investigators about the visit to Tsarnaev’s room.

According to the FBI account, just hours after surveillance camera photos of the Boston Marathon suspects were flashed around the world April 18, Tsnarnaev’s friends suspected he was one of the bombers and removed the backpack along with a laptop from Tsarnaev’s room at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

One of them later threw the backpack in the garbage, and it wound up in a landfill, where it was discovered by law enforcement officers last week, authorities said. In the backpack were fireworks that had been emptied of their gunpowder.

The lawyers for the Kazakh students said their clients had nothing to do with the bombing and were just as shocked by the crime as everyone else. Phillipos’ attorney, Derege Demissie, said outside court: “The only allegation is he made a misrepresentation.”

At a court appearance, the Kazakh students did not request bail and will be held for another hearing May 14. Phillipos was held for a hearing on Monday. If convicted, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov could get up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Phillipos faces a maximum of eight years behind bars and a $250,000 fine.

Three people were killed and more than 260 wounded on April 15 when two bombs exploded near the marathon’s finish line. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died after a gunfight with police days later. His 19-year-old brother was captured and lies in a prison hospital. Their mother has said the allegations against them are lies.

Investigators have not said whether the pressure cooker bombs used in the attacks were made with gunpowder extracted from fireworks.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov have been in jail for more than a week on allegations they were in violation of their student visas, one because he was skipping classes, the other because he was no longer enrolled. All three men charged Wednesday began attending UMass with Tsarnaev in 2011, according to the FBI.

Tazhayakov was allowed to return to the U.S. from Kazakhstan in January despite not having a valid student visa, a federal law enforcement official told The Associated Press. His student visa status had been terminated because he was academically dismissed from the university, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The FBI said that before Tsarnaev’s roommate let the three friends into the room, Kadyrbayev received a text message from Tsarnaev that read: “I’m about to leave if you need something in my room take it,” according to the FBI. When Tazhayakov learned of the message, “he believed he would never see Tsarnaev alive again,” the FBI said in the affidavit.

It was unclear from the court papers whether authorities believe that was an instruction from Tsarnaev to destroy evidence.

Once inside Tsarnaev’s room, the men noticed a backpack containing fireworks, which had been opened and emptied of gunpowder, the FBI said. The FBI said that Kadyrbayev knew when he saw the fireworks that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombings and decided to remove the backpack “to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble.”

Kadyrbayev also decided to remove Tsarnaev’s laptop “because he did not want Tsarnaev’s roommate to think he was stealing or behaving suspiciously by just taking the backpack,” the FBI said.

After the three returned to Kadyrbayev’s and Tazhayakov’s apartment with the backpack and computer, they watched news reports featuring photographs of Tsarnaev. The FBI said Kadyrbayev told authorities the three men then “collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble.”

Kadyrbayev said he placed the backpack and fireworks along with trash from the apartment into a large trash bag and threw it into a garbage bin near the men’s apartment, according to court papers.

When the backpack was later found, inside it was a UMass-Dartmouth homework assignment sheet from a class Tsarnaev was taking, the FBI said.

The court papers do not say what happened to the laptop.

In a footnote, the FBI said: “Tazhayakov also informed the FBI agents that while eating a meal with Dzhokhar and Kadrybayev approximately one month prior to the marathon bombing, Dzhokhar had explained to Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov that he knew how to make a bomb.”

Robert Stahl, an attorney for Kadyrbayev, said his client “absolutely denies the charges” and didn’t know that the backpack and fireworks were part of the bombing case. Kadyrbayev is “just as shocked and horrified by the violence in Boston that took place as the rest of the community is,” the lawyer said.

He also denied that Kadyrbayev instantly recognized Tsarnaev’s photo and said Kadyrbayev didn’t know Tsarnaev was involved in the bombing: “His first inkling came much later,” he said.

Tazhayakov’s lawyer, Harlan Protass, said Tazhayakov “feels horrible and was shocked to hear that someone he knew at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth was involved with the Boston Marathon bombing.”

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov lived at an off-campus apartment in New Bedford, about 60 miles south of Boston, and got around in a car registered to Kadyrbayev with a souvenir plate that read “Terrorista (hash)1.” The car was pictured on Tsarnaev’s Twitter feed in March.

The plate was a gag gift from some of Kadyrbayev’s friends, meant to invoke his penchant for late-night partying rather than his political sentiments, Kadyrbayev’s lawyer said last week.

Michael McKeown, 20, attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School with Tsarnaev and Phillipos.

“He wasn’t a stupid kid,” the Boston University sophomore said of Phillipos. “I’m surprised he would do something this foolish.”

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • U.N. school in Gaza in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 25, 2014

  • Jet with 116 on board crashes in Mali

    An Air Algerie jetliner carrying 116 people crashed Thursday in a rainstorm over restive Mali, and its wreckage was found near the border of neighboring Burkina Faso — the third major international aviation disaster in a week.

    July 25, 2014

  • Two more planes with Ukraine bodies arrive in Netherlands

    Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

    July 25, 2014

  • Obama demands ‘economic patriotism’

    Staking out a populist stand ahead of the midterm elections, President Barack Obama on Thursday demanded “economic patriotism” from U.S. corporations that use legal means to avoid U.S. taxes through overseas mergers.
    “I don’t care if it’s legal,” Obama declared. “It’s wrong.”

    July 24, 2014

  • Airline disasters come in a cluster

    Nearly 300 passengers perish when their plane is shot out of the sky. Airlines suspend flights to Israel’s largest airport after rocket attacks. Two airliners crash during storms. Aviation has suffered one of its worst weeks in memory, a cluster of disasters spanning three continents.

    July 24, 2014

  • Opponents: Evidence against lethal injection

    The nation’s third botched execution in six months offers more evidence for the courts that lethal injection carries too many risks and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, death-row lawyers and other opponents said Thursday.

    July 24, 2014

  • Ancient Animal Dig.jpg Wyoming cave with fossil secrets to be excavated

    For the first time in three decades, scientists are about to revisit one of North America’s most remarkable troves of ancient fossils: the bones of tens of thousands of animals piled at least 30 feet deep at the bottom of a sinkhole-type cave.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bodies of Malaysian jet victims solemnly returned to Dutch soil

    Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind.

    July 24, 2014

  • 48 dead in Taiwan plane crash

    Family members of victims of a plane crash were flying to the small Taiwanese island on Thursday where the plane had unsuccessfully attempted to land in stormy weather, killing 48. There were 10 survivors, and authorities were searching for one person who might have been in a wrecked house on the ground.

    July 24, 2014

  • Agents get subsidized ‘Obamacare’ using fake IDs

    Undercover investigators using fake identities were able to secure taxpayer-subsidized health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, congressional investigators said Wednesday.
    The weak link seemed to be call centers that handled applications for frazzled consumers unable to get through online.

    July 24, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads