Two friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to charges that they tried to obstruct a federal investigation into the case by destroying evidence.
Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both 19, entered pleas at an arraignment in federal court in Boston today on three counts of obstructing justice and aiding and abetting. They were arrested April 20 and are being held without bail.
Both men appeared in court wearing prison-issued orange jumpsuits and waived a reading of the indictment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann told U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler that she expects the trial to last two weeks and the government will call 15 to 20 witnesses. Bowler scheduled a status hearing for Sept. 26.
On April 15, two explosions occurred in Boston near the finish line of the annual marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 200. Three days later, the FBI published images of the principal suspects, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, citizens of Kazakhstan who attended the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth with Dzhokhar, saw the images online and recognized their friend, prosecutors said. They went to Tsarnaev’s dormitory, removed his laptop computer and a backpack containing fireworks and a jar of Vaseline and brought the items to their apartment in New Bedford, Massachusetts, according to the indictment.
The backpack was placed in a garbage bag and put in a trash bin, according to the prosecutors. The Federal Bureau of Investigation recovered it from a landfill about a week later.
One of the suspects told the other that Tsarnaev had used the Vaseline to make bombs, according to the indictment. Also, the suspects saw that the fireworks had been opened and emptied of powder, according to court records.
Also arrested was Robel Phillipos, 19, another friend of Tsarnaev’s who the FBI said accompanied the other two to the dorm room and removed the items. He was charged with making false statements to federal investigators. According to a court filing, he’s in plea negotiations with the government.
Dzhokhar pleaded not guilty on July 10 to 30 counts, including murder, and could face the death penalty if convicted. Prosecutors said the brothers were motivated by the radical Islamic group al-Qaeda.
The obstruction case is U.S. v. Kadyrbayev, 13-cr-10238, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston). The bombing case is U.S. v. Tsarnaev, 13-cr-10200, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).
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