A federal jury on Monday found a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of obstructing the investigation into the 2013 attack.
The jury found Azamat Tazhayakov guilty of obstructing justice and conspiring to obstruct justice, in connection with the removal of a backpack with potential evidence from Tsarnaev’s dorm room after the bombings.
Jurors indicated in a verdict questionnaire that they didn’t believe a separate allegation — involving the removal of a laptop computer from the same dorm room — amounted to obstruction or conspiracy.
Sentencing for Tazhayakov, who could get up to 25 years in prison, is scheduled for October. The verdict came in the first trial related to the April 15, 2013, bombings that killed three people and injured more than 200 others.
Tazhayakov’s mother wept loudly in court when the verdict was read. Tazhayakov spoke briefly to his parents before he was escorted out of the courtroom.
Prosecutors accused Tazhayakov and his roommate, fellow Kazakh national Dias Kadyrbayev, of trying to protect Tsarnaev three days after the bombings by removing a backpack and a laptop from Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, which Tazhayakov also attended.
Prosecutors alleged that Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov took the laptop to their apartment, and that Kadyrbayev, with Tazhayakov’s knowledge, tossed the backpack in a trash bin. Authorities eventually found the backpack — containing Vaseline, a thumb drive and fireworks — in a landfill.
Kadyrbayev is awaiting trial on the same charges and has pleaded not guilty. Another friend, Robel Phillipos, pleaded not guilty to making false statements. None of Tsarnaev’s friends is accused in the bomb plot itself.
Prosecutors told jurors Tazhayakov knew the identity of the suspected bombers — Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev — before the public found out, allegedly texting Kadyrbayev, “i think they got his brother,” hours before the public knew their names or their relationship to one another. [PS: The FBI knew the Boston bombing suspect too]
The friends recognized the Tsarnaev brothers after authorities released video and still photos asking for the public’s helping finding the two men, prosecutors said.
Kadyrbayev told his friends that he believed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “used the Vaseline ‘to make bombs,’ or words to that effect,” an indictment against him reads.
The government said Tsarnaev texted Kadyrbayev after the bombings and told him he could go to his dorm room and take what he wanted. Kadyrbayev showed that text to Tazhayakov, the government alleged.
Authorities alleged that the friends picked up the backpack and the laptop from Tsarnaev’s dorm room on April 18, 2013, shortly before Tsarnaev was taken into custody.
The FBI interviewed the friends as part of the bombing investigation, and lawyers for Tazhayakov said he did everything he could to help the probe when he spoke with investigators. Based on that information, authorities found Tsarnaev’s backpack in the landfill, his attorneys said.
Daniel Antonino, one of the jurors in Tazhayakov’s case, said the panel found him guilty of obstruction because “the backpack was simply taken and discarded like they were getting rid of evidence.”
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