Boston Bomb Suspect’s Friend Didn’t Cite Pot, Agents SayErik Larson and Janelle Lawrence
A former college student charged with lying to authorities probing the Boston Marathon bombing never said in interviews before his arrest that he was too high to recall events after the attack, federal agents told jurors.
The testimony in Boston federal court today by two investigators who questioned the ex-student, Robel Phillipos, contradicts his claim that he was too stoned to remember visiting suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room when incriminating evidence was removed by two other friends.
Phillipos, 20, a friend of Tsarnaev’s, is accused in the second trial stemming from the bombing of lying about whether he entered the dorm and witnessed his friends remove a backpack, fireworks casings and a laptop from the dorm three days after the bombing killed three people and wounded 260.
Phillipos, who isn’t accused of involvement in the bombing, doesn’t remember visiting the dorm because he’d been smoking pot the whole day, his lawyer, Derege Demissie, said in opening statements to jurors yesterday. The attorney said the case will hinge on the effects of marijuana on memory.
“He didn’t tell you he smoked a lot of marijuana?” Demissie asked Dwight Schwader, a U.S. Department of Transportation special agent.
“He told us he smoked at least two times during the day,” Schwader replied. “When we interviewed him again on Saturday morning, he did not bring up marijuana as an excuse.”
Tsarnaev, 21, faces a possible death sentence if a jury finds him guilty at a separate trial set to start in January. His lawyers argue in court papers that the double bombing on April 15, 2013, was masterminded by Tsarnaev’s brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a shootout with police.
The two other friends, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, were charged with obstructing justice by removing the items. Tazhayakov was convicted in a July trial in Boston. Kadyrbayev later pleaded guilty.
Agents who arrested the three friends during a manhunt for Tsarnaev coerced Phillipos into signing a confession saying he had lied, Demissie argues.
Schwader testified yesterday that Phillipos agreed to meet him in a parking lot on the Friday after the bombing. Phillipos sat for a two-hour interview in the agent’s sedan while the manhunt for Tsarnaev was under way and revealed he’d seen Tsarnaev the day before on campus.
Phillipos described the clothing Tsarnaev had been wearing -- a gray hooded sweatshirt with lettering -- and said he went with Tsarnaev to their friends’ off-campus apartment that afternoon, Schwader testified.
The other two men, who were roommates, are citizens of Kazakhstan who were in the U.S. on student visas. Phillipos is a U.S. citizen.
Phillipos told agents he had no knowledge of Tsarnaev’s visiting the apartment where Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev lived, prosecutors said. They showed jurors a photograph of Phillipos sitting in the apartment with Tsarnaev.
The case is U.S. v. Kadyrbayev, 13-cr-10238, and the Tsarnaev case is U.S. v. Tsarnaev, 13-cr-10200, both in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).