A former college friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber admitted that he “suspected” Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was wanted in connection with the attack when federal agents raided his apartment in the days afterwards.
Dias Kadyrbayev, 20, testified yesterday in Boston federal court that he thought his friend might be involved when, at Tsarnaev’s suggestion, he took the suspect’s computer and some fireworks from a college dorm room. He is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice for removing the items.
The concession came during cross-examination by prosecutors in a pre-trial hearing as Kadyrbayev seeks to throw out as coerced statements he made to police. Tsarnaev faces a potential death sentence if convicted at a trial scheduled for later this year.
“Here’s where you see the danger of putting your client on” the witness stand, said Gerard T. Leone Jr., a former federal prosecutor, now a partner at Nixon Peabody International LLP.
The April 15, 2013 bombing killed three people and injured hundreds. Photographs of Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed during the manhunt that followed the bombing, were broadcast by media at about 5 p.m. on April 18, 2013, shortly before the apartment raid.
A lawyer for Kadyrbayev, Robert Stahl, has disputed whether his client was aware Tsarnaev was being sought when the items were removed. Tsarnaev sent him a text message the day of the raid telling him he could take anything he wanted from the room, but not claiming credit for the attack.
“I think you have to wait until the evidence comes out on that,” Stahl said yesterday. “There’s a lot more.”
The raid of the New Bedford, Massachusetts, apartment Kadyrbayev shared with Azamat Tazhayakov, also charged with obstruction of justice, took place as a manhunt spread across the Boston metropolitan area in the wake of the attack.
Two days ago, Kadyrbayev testified that he was traumatized by the raid, describing an ordeal that began as agents descended on his home as he was napping. He said he could see a sniper’s red laser dots on his girlfriend’s head and heard a man on a bullhorn outside demanding, “Dzhokhar come out!”
Then-Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller had ordered the apartment searched without a warrant, FBI Special Agent John Walker testified May 13.
Kadyrbayev contends he was taken shirtless and in handcuffs to a police station and interrogated for more than four hours. When he asked whether he needed a lawyer, an FBI agent allegedly deflected the question and said, “you’re just helping us out.”
The defense also argued Kadyrbayev wasn’t sufficiently proficient in English to comprehend the form he signed waiving his constitutional right to remain silent.
Kadyrbayev’s student visa was revoked in February 2013 after he performed poorly at the university. Federal agents initially arrested him, a citizen of Kazakhstan, on immigration violations on April 20.
The roommates and Robel Phillipos, another friend who is accused of making false statements to law enforcement officials, deny wrongdoing and aren’t accused in the bombing itself.
The three men are being tried separately from Tsarnaev. Tazhayakov and Phillipos failed in their attempts to have their statements given to law enforcement thrown out.
Prosecutors have spent the past two days assailing Kadyrbayev’s credibility, asking him about missteps during his time as a student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
He admitted to plagiarism and hiring a fellow student to pose as his professor to tell his mother he was doing well when he was failing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann also asked if he sold drugs at the university.
Kadyrbayev replied “yes,” saying he sold marijuana to fund his own drug use.
The case is U.S. v. Kadyrbayev, 13-cr-10238, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston). The Tsarnaev case is U.S. v. Tsarnaev, 13-cr-10200, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).