Boston Marathon bombing defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s college friend looked him up on Facebook after reading about the attacks online and before he was publicly accused of the crime, a computer forensics expert said.
Azamat Tazhayakov, on trial in Boston federal court on charges of conspiring to obstruct justice after the bombings that killed three and injured 260, looked up Tsarnaev three nights after the April 15, 2013, attack, FBI agent James Scripture Jr. testified today.
Tazhayakov later viewed a video of the two suspects six times after the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked for public help in identifying them, Scripture said. Instead of calling the police, Tazhayakov visited Tsarnaev’s dorm room and took evidence, the government claims.
“Did you research how many millions of people looked at those same websites?” defense attorney Diane Ferrone asked on cross-examination.
“No,” Scripture replied.
Tazhayakov visited Tsarnaev’s dorm room with his friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, and took Tsarnaev’s laptop, his backpack, and dismantled fireworks in an effort to protect him from prosecution, the government says. The visit would have occurred before Tazhayakov’s Internet search, according to the agent’s testimony.
Kadyrbayev is also charged with obstructing justice, while a third friend, Robel Phillipos, who also visited the room, is accused of lying about the events. None of the three is accused of involvement in the attack.
Tazhayakov, in a dark suit and tie, wore headphones and listened intently to Russian translations of the testimony, as on previous days. His attorneys often pat him on the back and appear to comfort him between court sessions.
Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, both from Kazakhstan, were in the U.S. on student visas. They sought separate trials. Phillipos is a U.S. citizen.
FBI agent Farbod Azad, who helped interrogate the friends after they were detained the day after the dorm room visit, testified today that the defendant admitted he and his friends took the backpack, fireworks and a jar of Vaseline, a potential bomb component, from the accused Marathon bomber’s room.
“In recounting the story, it was a ‘we,’” Azad testified, referring to Tazhayakov. “He said, ‘We did this.’”
Another agent testified yesterday that she couldn’t remember whether Tazhayakov said “he” or “we”.
Tazhayakov initially withheld details from the bureau about his visit to Tsarnaev’s dorm, Azad said. The agent said he knew Tazhayakov wasn’t giving a full account because Kadyrbayev was being interviewed in another room.
“I let Azamat know there was information -- he was leaving things out,” said Azad, who said he moved between the rooms to compare stories.
Tsarnaev’s college roommate at the time of the bombing, Andrew Dwinells, testified earlier in the trial that he allowed the men into the room and they left about 10:30 p.m. He testified he saw Kadyrbayev rummaging through items but didn’t see the men take a backpack or laptop. He testified he did see Tazhayakov take a pair of headphones.
Tazhayakov’s lawyer told the jury in opening statements that Kadyrbayev, not his client, took the backpack.
Kadyrbayev’s girlfriend, Bayan Kumiskali, testified yesterday she was enraged when the three men showed up with Tsarnaev’s backpack at their apartment because it might contain evidence of the crime. She said she told them to get rid of it, which they did.
Tsarnaev, 20, who faces a possible death sentence if convicted, is scheduled for trial beginning Nov. 3. He has pleaded not guilty, though his defense team hasn’t denied he helped carry out the attack. His lawyers said they intend to focus blame on Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, who died in a police shootout.
Tazhayakov faces as long as 20 years in prison if convicted.
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).