Two friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev waived a scheduled court hearing on whether the government had probable cause to arrest them for allegedly hindering a federal probe into the attack.
Lawyers for Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, who were charged on May 1 with obstruction of justice, said they wanted more time to review evidence in the case. Today they filed a joint motion with U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz to cancel a May 14 hearing in federal court in Boston, where the request was approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mirianne Bowler.
Tazhayakov’s lawyer, Arkady Bukh, said the delay will allow him to seek more evidence from government prosecutors.
“We’re functioning simply based on the complaint, which is public material; this is very minimal material to work with,” Bukh said today in a phone interview. “We need to know a little more in order to engage in some sort of meaningful negotiations, or possibly go to trial if the evidence is very weak.”
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, both in the U.S. on student visas from Kazakhstan, are accused of deciding to remove a backpack containing fireworks from Tsarnaev’s college dormitory room on April 18 after authorities released pictures identifying him as a suspect in the attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 near the race’s finish line. They also agreed to dispose of the bag to protect their friend, the U.S. said.
Christina Sterling, a spokeswoman for Ortiz, declined to comment on the delay.
A third friend of Tsarnaev’s, Robel Phillipos, was arrested and charged the same day over claims he lied to investigators about the dorm-room visit. Phillipos, a U.S. citizen, was released on bail and is scheduled to appear in court on May 17.
Tsarnaev, who was charged with conducting the attack with his brother Tamerlan, 26, faces a possible death sentence if convicted. Tamerlan died in a police shootout in the days after the bombing. Tsarnaev is scheduled to appear in court on May 30. All four men are 19 years old and attended classes at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
The process is “simply taking time” and the request to delay next week’s hearing isn’t a sign of a plea bargain with prosecutors, Robert Stahl, a lawyer for Kadyrbayev, said in an interview. Stahl said he sought the delay to gather evidence and to avoid a “rush of judgment for the government to indict in order to avoid the preliminary hearing.”
Prosecutors allege that while both Kazakh men agreed to remove the backpack and dispose of it, Kadyrbayev is the one who physically removed it from the dorm room and later placed it in a plastic bag and dumped it in a trash bin near his apartment.
The difference is important to Tazhayakov’s defense, Bukh said. He said he’s seeking information including statements given to investigators by people who would have witnessed the dorm-room visit. He said that includes Tsarnaev’s roommate, whose name isn’t in the complaint, and Kadyrbayev’s girlfriend, whose name he doesn’t know.
“There are lots of witnesses -- some witnesses who knew what was going on in the room,” Bukh said. “The complaint itself is very clear it was done by Mr. Kadyrbayev.”
Bukh also said he seeks to know what evidence the government has about the way Tsarnaev allegedly gave his consent for what to do with the backpack.
“The allegation against my client is that in some form or shape he gave consent -- this is a very generic statement from the prosecutors,” Bukh said. “Was it general consent? How general? Does silence constitute consent? Where in his head does it constitute consent? As strange as it sounds, it’s a very important detail.”
The case is U.S. v. Kadyrbayev, 1:13-02161, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston). The Tsarnaev case is U.S. v. Tsarnaev, 13-mj-02106, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).