Thursday, September 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Latest Boston Marathon bombing updates: Suspect's friends charged, held; details emerge

Three friends of Boston Marathon bomb suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are being held for allegedly disposing of evidence or lying to authorities in the bombing investigation.

Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov and Robel Phillipos, all 19-year-olds who were friends with Tsarnaev at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, were arrested on Wednesday. They were all held after an initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon.

Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, who are accused of throwing away a backpack filled with fireworks found in Tsarnaev's dorm room, did not request bail and have a hearing on May 14. Phillipos, accused of lying to investigators about retrieving the items from the dorm, has another hearing Monday.

Tsarnaev and his brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, are accused of planting the bombs that killed three people and wounded more than 260 at the marathon finish line. Tamerlan died trying to escape from authorities; Dzhokhar was apprehended after a massive manhunt in Boston and its suburbs on April 19.

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  • READ: The affidavit
  • Here is the affidavit for the arrests of Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos, and more details on the case from the Associated Press (more updates below):

    Just hours before one of the Boston Marathon suspects and his brother allegedly gunned down a campus police officer, authorities say he exchanged a series of text messages with a friend who'd become suspicious after seeing what looked like a familiar face being flashed on television.

    Dias Kadyrbayev, a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, texted his college buddy Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, saying he looked like one of the bombing suspects.

    "Tsarnaev's return texts contained 'lol' and other things Kadyrbayev interpreted as jokes such as 'you better not text me' and 'come to my room and take whatever you want,'" an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit.

    Those texts set off a series of events that on Wednesday led to Kadyrbayev and his roommate Azamat Tazhayakov, natives of Kazhakstan, being charged with conspiring to destroy emptied fireworks and other evidence linking their friend to the deadly April 15 blasts. Robel Phillipos, who graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School with Tsarnaev in 2011, was charged with lying to investigators about the April 18 visit to his friend's dorm room to retrieve the items.

    Tazhayakov also told authorities that during a meal about a month before the terror attacks, Tsarnaev informed him and Kadyrbayev "that he knew how to make a bomb." That is significant because, before he was advised of his rights not to speak with authorities, the 19-year-old bombing suspect allegedly said that his older brother had only recently recruited him to be part of the attack.

    According to the FBI account, just hours after surveillance camera photos of the two suspects were flashed around the world April 18, Tsnarnaev's friends suspected he was one of the bombers and removed the backpack along with a laptop from Tsarnaev's room at UMass Dartmouth.

    One of them later threw the backpack in the garbage, and it wound up in a landfill, where it was discovered by law enforcement officers last week, authorities said. In the backpack were fireworks that had been emptied of their gunpowder.

    Investigators have not said whether the pressure cooker bombs used in the attacks were made with gunpowder extracted from fireworks.

    The lawyers for the Kazakh students said their clients had nothing to do with the bombing and were just as shocked by the crime as everyone else. Phillipos' attorney, Derege Demissie, said outside court: "The only allegation is he made a misrepresentation."

    Here is the FBI's account of what happened when the trio was in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm room, via the AP:

    The FBI said that before Tsarnaev's roommate let the three friends into the room, Kadyrbayev received a text message from Tsarnaev that read: "I'm about to leave if you need something in my room take it," according to the FBI. When Tazhayakov learned of the message, "he believed he would never see Tsarnaev alive again," the FBI said in the affidavit.

    It was unclear from the court papers whether authorities believe that was an instruction from Tsarnaev to destroy evidence.

    Once inside Tsarnaev's room, the men watched a movie. At some point, they noticed a backpack containing more than a half-dozen fireworks, each about 8 inches long, according to the affidavit. The black powder had been scooped out. 

    The FBI said that Kadyrbayev knew when he saw the fireworks that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombings and decided to remove the backpack "to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble."

    Kadyrbayev also decided to remove Tsarnaev's laptop "because he did not want Tsarnaev's roommate to think he was stealing or behaving suspiciously by just taking the backpack," the FBI said. 

    After the three returned to Kadyrbayev's and Tazhayakov's apartment with the backpack and computer, they watched news reports featuring photographs of Tsarnaev. The FBI said Kadyrbayev told authorities the three men then "collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble." 

    Kadyrbayev said he placed the backpack and fireworks along with trash from the apartment into a large trash bag and threw it into a garbage bin near the men's apartment, according to court papers.

    When the backpack was later found, inside it was a UMass-Dartmouth homework assignment sheet from a class Tsarnaev was taking, the FBI said. 

    The court papers do not say what happened to the laptop.

    Details about Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos emerge

    More information about the backgrounds of the three friends is becoming known.

    Kadyrabayev and Tazhayakov appeared in an immigration court in Boston Wednesday morning on allegations that they overstayed their student visas. They have been detained for more than a week for the civil immigration violations, according to the Boston Globe.

    The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth tells the AP that Tazhayakov has been suspended "pending the outcome of the case" and Kadyrbayev and Phillipos are not presently enrolled at the school.

    CNN outlines the basics on the suspects' backgrounds, and the New York Times looks at their social media profiles.

    A BMW registered to Kadyrbayev had the vanity license plate "Terrorista #1." Friends told NBC News that he had "a lot of money." The novelty plate was reportedly a joke gift.

    Most want death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

    A Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that a large majority of Americans would support the death penalty for Tsarnaev if he is convicted in the bombings.

    Overall, 70 percent of those surveyed said they supported the death penalty in the case.

    Emily Babay and wire services PHILLY.com
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