Robel Phillipos, the college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev charged with lying to investigators, distanced himself from two others arrested last week, saying he should be released on bail in part because he isn’t accused of destroying evidence.
“Phillipos is not charged with having any knowledge whatsoever of the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15, 2013, or with helping the surviving suspect after the incident,” his attorney, Derege Demissie, said in a filing yesterday in Boston federal court. “Nor is there any allegation that Mr. Phillipos removed, tampered with, or destroyed any potential evidence after the bombing.”
Demissie said the case is about a “frightened and confused 19-year-old who was subjected to intense questioning and interrogation, without the benefit of counsel, and in the context of one of the worst attacks against the nation. The weight of the federal government under such circumstances can have a devastatingly crushing effect on the ability of an adolescent to withstand the enormous pressure and respond rationally.”
Tsarnaev, 19, is charged with masterminding the attack with his brother Tamerlan, 26, killing three people and injuring more than 200 near the conclusion of the race. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted. Tamerlan died in a police shootout in the days after the bombing.
Two other of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both 19, were charged last week with conspiracy to obstruct the investigation. They allegedly disposed of or destroyed evidence, including a backpack with fireworks wrappers and tubes inside, after realizing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may be involved in the attack, the U.S. said. All three friends of Tsarnaev consented to detention at their initial court appearance.
Phillipos is accused of lying to investigators about how the three friends reacted to suspicions about Tsarnaev. Phillipos faces as long as eight years in prison if convicted while the two others face five year terms if convicted.
In the bail request, Demissie offered to accede to GPS monitoring of Phillipos, house arrest and a third-party monitor in addition to any standard bail restrictions.
Christina Sterling, a spokeswoman for Boston U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, declined to comment on the filing, saying the government would respond at a court hearing in the case Monday.
Phillipos took a leave of absence for a semester and didn’t attend school in the spring, his lawyer said in the filing.
“It was a coincidence that he was on campus to attend a seminar on April 18,” the lawyer said. “He hadn’t had contact with Tsarnaev or the other the two friends accused of obstruction in more than two months.”
Among the eight affidavits filed with the bail request was one from Phillipos’s mother, Genet Bekele. She said her son is a hard-working and caring person with a diverse group of friends. Their family regularly attended the Boston Marathon and cheered for the Ethiopian runners, she said in the filing.
“We mourned for those who lost their lives and prayed for the injured,” Bekele said in the filing. “My son wants nothing more than the opportunity to clear his name.”
The case is U.S. v. Phillipos, 13-02162, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).