Boston Marathon bombing defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev acted normal in the days after the attack, playing video games and sleeping, his former college roommate said at the first trial stemming from the deadly explosions.
“He slept a bit more, but that was it,” Andrew Dwinells, a senior at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, said of Tsarnaev’s behavior before he was identified as a suspect. “He didn’t seem agitated, didn’t seem nervous.”
The testimony by Dwinells today in Boston federal court is his first public commentary since the bombing on April 15, 2013, killed three people and wounded 260. He didn’t give his age and was barred by U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock from speaking to the press. He will return to the stand tomorrow.
The former roommate is a prosecution witness in the trial of Azamat Tazhayakov, one of three friends of Tsarnaev charged with obstructing justice by hindering a terrorism probe. The three aren’t accused of helping with the bombing or knowing about it in advance; instead they’re accused of removing a backpack, laptop and other incriminating evidence from the dorm room after realizing their friend was a suspect.
Dwinells said the three friends arrived at the dorm room on April 18, three days after bombing. That was the day photos of Tsarnaev were made public by federal authorities, though his identity was at first unknown.
Dwinells said one friend showed him a text from Tsarnaev indicating they could take items from his room. They took marijuana from a drawer, Dwinells said, though he had seen them do that before “on multiple occasions.”
“I can’t really count them,” Dwinells testified.
After the three men left the dorm room around 10:30 that night, Dwinells testified, he sent a text message to Tsarnaev saying, “I was just wondering what was going on since this was a little bit abnormal.”
By the time agents arrived at the dorm room, Tsarnaev was on the run, triggering a citywide manhunt.
Dwinells said he never saw any of the three men who visited the dorm take away a backpack, a laptop or a jar of Vaseline -- three of the items they’re accused of removing in a bid to help Tsarnaev.
The defense claims one of the other three friends, Dias Kadyrbayev, secretly took the laptop and backpack while Dwinells couldn’t see him. Tazhayakov took only a pair of his headphones that Tsarnaev had taken from him, according to defense lawyers.
The men left behind items that the defense has described as incriminating, including the white hat Tsarnaev was wearing in surveillance photos, wires and wire cutters.
Prosecutors showed Dwinells a photograph of the white hat.
“I believe I saw Dzhokhar wear it a couple of times,” Dwinells said. Dwinells also testified he never saw Tsarnaev in possession of fireworks, wire cutters or BB gun pellets.
Tazhayakov, Kadyrbayev and Robel Phillipos, the third friend, all sought separate trials to distance themselves from each other. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, both from Kazakhstan, were in the U.S. on student visas. Phillipos is a U.S. citizen.
Tsarnaev, 20, is scheduled to go on trial beginning Nov. 3. He has pleaded not guilty in the case, though his defense team hasn’t denied he helped carry out the attack. Instead, they said they intend to focus blame on Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, who died in a police shootout.
Tsarnaev faces a possible death sentence if he’s found guilty.
Dwinells said he was randomly assigned to the room with Tsarnaev in 2012.
“We shared a room, but didn’t talk much,” he said.
The case against the three friends is U.S. v. Kadyrbayev, 13-cr-10238, and the Tsarnaev case is U.S. v. Tsarnaev, 13-cr-10200, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).