A third college friend of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was indicted by a federal grand jury over claims he conspired to hide evidence linking Tsarnaev to the April 15 terrorist attack.
Robel Phillipos, 19, was charged today with two counts of lying to investigators about why he visited Tsarnaev’s dormitory room three days after the bombing, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in Boston said in a statement.
Phillipos and two friends are accused of removing a laptop and backpack containing bomb-making materials in a bid to protect Tsarnaev from authorities after Tsarnaev’s image was shown on television as a suspect before he’d been identified.
The two other friends, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both Kazakhstan citizens living in Massachusetts on student visas, were indicted Aug. 8 on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and impeding a federal probe. The superseding indictment naming all three men was filed today in federal court in Boston.
The double bombing near the marathon’s crowded finish line killed an 8-year-old boy and two woman, injuring more than 260 others. Tsarnaev, 20, pleaded not guilty on July 10 to a 30-count indictment accusing him of masterminding the attack with his brother, who was killed during a police manhunt.
Tsarnaev and the Kazakh students began attending the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth at the same time in 2011, prosecutors said.
According to the indictment, Kadyrbayev received a text message from Tsarnaev on April 18 suggesting he go to Tsarnaev’s room and “take what’s there.”
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, both 19, pleaded not guilty on Aug. 13 to the earlier charges that they tried to block the hunt for Tsarnaev and his brother, and that they sought to destroy evidence by throwing it in a dumpster near their apartment.
Derege Demissie, Phillipos’ attorney, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the indictment. None of the three friends have been accused of helping plan the attack, or being aware it would happen.
Phillipos, a U.S. citizen, is in plea negotiations with the government, and sought to distance himself from the other two men in a court appearance in May.
If he’s convicted, Phillipos faces as many as eight years in prison on each of the two counts, according to the statement. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars on the obstruction count and five years on the conspiracy count, prosecutors said. The two Kazakhs also face being deported.
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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