Two college friends of the alleged Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, pleaded not guilty to charges they hindered the investigation of the April 15 terrorist attack by hiding evidence to protect their classmate.
Dias Kadyrbayev today pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice, and Robel Phillipos pleaded not guilty to making false statements to investigators, in federal court in Boston. A third friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, will appear later. His lawyer was delayed on a train from New York.
The three are accused of removing a laptop and backpack containing bomb-making materials from Tsarnaev’s dormitory room three days after the attack to protect Tsarnaev, 20, from authorities after his image was shown on television as a suspect. At the time, he hadn’t been identified.
Phillipos was indicted Aug. 29 by a federal grand jury on two charges of lying to investigators about why he visited Tsarnaev’s room. Kadyrbayev and 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 double bombing near the marathon’s crowded finish line killed an 8-year-old boy and two women and injured more than 260. Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to a 30-count indictment accusing him of masterminding the attack with his brother, Tamerlan, who was killed during a police manhunt.
Tsarnaev and the Kazakhs 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 also pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges that they tried to block the hunt for Tsarnaev and his brother. The plea today relates to a new indictment that named all three men.
Robert Stahl, Kadyrbayev’s lawyer, said a trial will show there was no criminal intent to obstruct justice or assist Tsarnaev.
“My client was just as shocked and horrified as the rest of us about what happened,” Stahl said today outside court. “There was no context for him to put this in, because Dzhokhar was not radical, not religious. He never expressed any of these views.”
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).