3 men charged in connection with Boston Marathon bombings
Three men were charged today with attempting to cover up evidence of explosive materials allegedly used by Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Read more: Boston Marathon bombings
Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, two UMass Dartmouth students from Kazakhstan, were charged with conspiracy to obstruct the FBI’s investigation by “knowingly destroying, concealing, and covering up objects belonging to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, namely, a backpack containing fireworks and a laptop computer, with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the criminal investigation of the Marathon bombings.”
The duo were living in New Bedford and were initially held by law enforcement on immigration violations pertaining to their student visas.
Robel Phillipos, also a student at UMass Dartmouth, was charged with lying to federal investigators by repeatedly denying that he, Kadyrbayev, and Tazhayakov removed the backpack containing the fireworks and computer from Tsarnaev’s dorm room hours after the FBI released surveillance photos of the two bombing suspects.
“All three have admitted that on the evening of April 18, 2013, they removed Tsarnaev’s backpack from Tsarnaev’s dormitory room, and Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov have admitted that they agreed to get rid of it after concluding from news reports that Tsarnaev was one of the Boston Marathon bombers,” according to an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Scott Cieplik.
If convicted, Phillipos, a U.S. citizen living in Cambridge, will face a maximum sentence of 8 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov will face a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if found guilty of the obstruction charge.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said that there is no indication so far that Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov, or Phillipos had facilitated or helped the Tsarnaev brothers in carrying out the bombing.
“This [arrest] should not raise any concerns in anyone’s mind about a continuing threat to the public,” said Patrick. “This is about getting all the way to the bottom of the story of what happened at the marathon.”
Court documents filed revealed that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had bragged to Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov that “he knew how to make a bomb” about a month before the marathon attack.
It appeared that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, used explosive powder from fireworks, Vaseline – which is made of petroleum – and metal ball bearings (BBs) to construct the pressure cooker bombs that killed 3 people and injured more than 200 others near the finish of the Boston Marathon on April 15th. Some of wounded required amputation.
According to Cieplik’s affidavit, Phillipos seemed to have been the first to notice that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev looked like suspect #2 identified in the FBI surveillance photos. Phillipos called Kadyrbayev shortly after the FBI photos were released and told him that “one of the suspects in the Marathon bombings looked familiar.”
After seeing the news reports on television, Kadyrbayev texted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and “told him that he looked like the suspect on television.” Tsarnaev replied with “lol” and “you better not text me” and “come to my room and take whatever you want” – messages that Kadyrbayev interpreted as a joke.
When Kadyrbayev, Phillipos, and Tazhayakov went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room at UMass Dartmouth’s Pine Dale Hall, Tsarnaev’s roommate told them that Dzhokhar had left a couple of hours earlier. The three hung out at Tsarnaev’s room for about an hour, watching a movie. During that time, they noticed a backpack containing fireworks. There were about seven red tubular fireworks between six to eight inches inside the backpack.
“This discovery frightened Tazhayakov because the powder had been emptied from the tube. Kadyrbayev also found a jar of Vaseline in the room and told Tazhayakov that he believed Tsarnaev had used the Vaseline to make bombs,” according to the affidavit. “Kadyrbayev knew when he saw the empty fireworks that Tsarnaev was involved in the Marathon bombing. Kadyrbayev decided to remove the backpack from the room in order to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble. He decided to take Tsarnaev’s laptop as well because he did not want Tsarnaev’s roommate to think he was stealing or behaving suspiciously by just taking the backpack.”
The three men then returned to Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov’s apartment in New Bedford, where they watched the TV news coverage of the marathon bombings. According to Phillipos’s statement to the FBI, he three men “started to freak out, because it became clear from a CNN report that we were watching that Jahar was one of the Boston Marathon bombers.”
Kadyrbayev told investigators that they “collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble.” Kadyrbayev threw large black trash bag containing the backpack and fireworks into his apartment building’s dumpster at about 10 p.m. on April 18th.
Phillipos initially denied ever going to Tsarnaev’s dorm room. Phillipos “eventually confessed that he had lied” during his fourth interview with investigators on Tuesday, April 26 – the same day the Tsarnaev’s backpack was recovered from a New Bedford landfill.
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: MA Gov. Deval Patrick’s remarks on the arrests of 3 suspects in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings on May 1, 2013
- WhatTheFolly.com: Boston Marathon bombings
- Justice.gov: Three Men Arrested in Connection with Boston Marathon Bombing Investigation
- Justice.gov: United States v. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov criminal complaint – May 1, 2013 (PDF)
- Justice.gov: United States v. Robel Phillipos criminal complaint – May 1, 2013 (PDF)