The Times West Virginian

Headline News

May 5, 2013

Experts: Feds pressure widow, pals in bomb case

BOSTON — Every time the widow of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev leaves her parents’ house, federal agents watching the residence follow her in unmarked vehicles.

Federal authorities are placing intense pressure on what they know to be the inner circle of the two bombing suspects, arresting three college buddies of surviving brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and keeping Tamerlan’s 24-year-old widow, Katherine Russell, in the public eye with their open surveillance and leaks to media about investigators’ focus on her.

Legal experts say it’s part of their quest not just to determine whether Russell and the friends are culpable but also to push for as much information as possible regarding whether the bombing suspects had ties to a terrorism network or accomplices working domestically or abroad. A primary goal is to push the widow and friends to give their full cooperation, according to the experts.

David Zlotnick, a professor of law at Roger Williams University and former federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia, said authorities may be tracking Russell closely because they feel she’s not being completely honest about all she knows.

“It seems to me they don’t believe her yet,” he said.

Dzhokhar is in a prison hospital, facing a potential death sentence if convicted of the terrorism plot that authorities allege the 19-year-old and his late 26-year-old brother carried out April 15. Twin pressure cooker bombs detonated near the race’s finish line, leaving three people dead and injuring more than 260 others. Tamerlan died in a gunfight with authorities April 19, a day after authorities released photos of the suspects.

Tamerlan’s widow has been ensconced at her parents’ North Kingstown, R.I., home since then. Much about her remains a mystery, including what she knew or witnessed in the weeks, months and years before the bombings, and what she saw and did in the days after.

It’s unclear when Russell last communicated with her husband, but her lawyer, Amato DeLuca, told The Associated Press in an interview last month that the last time she saw him was before she went to work April 18. DeLuca said Tuesday that Russell had met with law enforcement “for many hours over the past week,” and would continue to do so in the coming days. He previously told the AP that Russell didn’t suspect her husband of anything before the bombings, and nothing seemed amiss in the days after.

Zlotnick said the fact that charges have been brought against the younger brother’s three friends from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth over allegations they covered up for Dzhokhar indicates authorities are willing to go after the widow for similar actions. That puts pressure on Russell to cooperate.

Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, students from Kazakhstan, were charged this week with conspiring to obstruct justice by taking a backpack with fireworks and a laptop from Dzhokhar’s dorm room, while Robel Phillipos was charged with lying to investigators about the visit to the dorm room. All three are 19 years old and face the possibility of five or more years in federal prison.

The lawyers for the Kazakh students said their clients had nothing to do with the bombing and were shocked by the crime. Phillipos’ attorney, Derege Demissie, said he was accused only of a “misrepresentation.”

Nancy Gertner, a former federal judge in Massachusetts and a professor at Harvard Law School, said she believes authorities will try to use the conspiracy charges against the friends to turn them into cooperating witnesses against Dzhokhar. They will also see if the defendants can help them determine if there’s a wider plot and a continuing danger for citizens.

“I think it’s to find out ... are there other tentacles here?” Gertner said.

A grand jury is likely already hearing testimony against Dzhokhar, said Michael Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney for Massachusetts who also once headed the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He said investigators will be looking into whether the brothers tested bombs before the attack and asking questions about whom Tamerlan had contact with when he traveled to Russia last year.

Those are some of the things they would also want to know from Russell.

One of investigators’ goals right now is “to figure out if she has knowledge of how he became radicalized, who he spoke to, how he may have learned to make the bomb and whether there are others out there who share his views,” said Ron Sullivan, a professor and director of Harvard’s Criminal Justice Institute.

In addition to threatening her with criminal charges and a potential prison sentence to get what they want from her, Ron Sullivan said authorities can bring social pressure to bear, including leaking information that suggests she isn’t being helpful.

“She’s the mother of a young daughter. I imagine she does not want to be deemed as a pariah or ostracized by the whole country,” he said.

One question that swirls around Russell is what she saw inside the cramped Cambridge apartment she shared with Tamerlan, whom she married in 2010, and their toddler. Two U.S. officials have told the AP that Dzhokhar told investigators the bombs were assembled in that apartment. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the details of the ongoing investigation.

Robert Clark Corrente, a former U.S. attorney for Rhode Island, said it is unlikely Russell could be prosecuted if she saw a pressure cooker in the home. But if she saw a dozen pressure cookers and several bags of fireworks, that could be a different story.

Her culpability for her actions after the bombings is also a matter of degrees. She could be in trouble if authorities determine she harbored someone or destroyed evidence. But even if Russell communicated with her husband after the release of his photo as the bombing suspect, Corrente said she may not be charged because of the public way it happened.

“I think anybody would be expected to call his or her spouse and say, ‘You won’t believe what I just saw on TV,”’ Corrente said.

The arrests of Dzhokhar’s friends and scrutiny of Russell may also have a deterrent effect by demonstrating what happens to people who don’t alert authorities if someone close to them is involved in a terror plot, Zlotnick said.

Eugene O’Donnell, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice lecturer and former police officer and assistant district attorney in New York City, said the message from federal authorities is clear: “No stone will be unturned” in their probe.

“I think after 9/11 there’s really a kitchen sink approach to national security,” he said.

———

Smith reported from Providence, R.I. Associated Press writers Pete Yost and Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report from Washington.

 

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Supreme Court: Michigan affirmative action ban OK

    A state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

    April 23, 2014

  • Court critical of law punishing campaign lies

    The Supreme Court appears to be highly skeptical of laws that try to police false statements during political campaigns, raising doubts about the viability of such laws in more than 15 states.

    April 23, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia has ‘days, not weeks’ to follow by an international accord for Ukraine

    Russia has “days, not weeks” to abide by an international accord aimed at stemming the crisis in Ukraine, the top U.S. diplomat in Kiev warned Monday as Vice President Joe Biden launched a high-profile show of support for the pro-Western Ukrainian government. Russia in turn accused authorities in Kiev of flagrantly violating the pact and declared their actions would not stand.

    April 22, 2014

  • U.S. weighing military exercises

    The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, a Western official said Saturday. The exercises would follow Russia’s buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine and its annexation last month of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

    April 21, 2014

  • Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout

    Within hours of an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming militant Ukrainian nationalists and Russian state television stations aired pictures of supposed proof of their involvement in the attack that left at least three people dead.

    April 20, 2014

  • Governor: Closing Boston amid bomber hunt ‘tough’

    Several days after the Boston Marathon bombing, Gov. Deval Patrick received a call in the pre-dawn hours from a top aide telling him that police officers outside the city had just engaged in a ferocious gun battle with the two men suspected of setting the bombs and that one was dead and the other had fled.

    April 20, 2014

  • Everest avalanche reminder of risks Sherpas face

    The rescuers moved quickly, just minutes after the first block of ice tore loose from Mount Everest and started an avalanche that roared down the mountain, ripping through teams of guides hauling gear.
    But they couldn’t get there quickly enough.

    April 20, 2014

  • Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

    A college student eats more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumps to his death from a hotel balcony. A husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused candy.

    April 19, 2014

  • Everest avalanche kills at least 12

    An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving four missing in the deadliest disaster on the world’s highest peak. Several more were injured.

    April 19, 2014

  • Diplomacy doesn’t move insurgents in Ukraine

    Pro-Russian insurgents defiantly refused Friday to surrender their weapons or give up government buildings in eastern Ukraine, despite a diplomatic accord reached in Geneva and overtures from the government in Kiev.

    April 19, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads