(BOSTON) — Three more people have been taken into custody in connection with the deadly bombing at the Boston Marathon, two charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and one with lying to investigators.
A criminal complaint filed Wednesday alleges two college-aged friends of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19-year-olds Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, allegedly destroyed or concealed a laptop computer and a backpack containing fireworks belonging to Dzhokhar after the bombing. The third suspect, 19-year-old American Robel Phillipos, has been charged with lying to federal law enforcement officers.
All three suspects appeared in a Boston court Wednesday for an initial hearing where they were voluntarily detained pending future bail hearings.
Dzhokhar is in custody after being seriously injured in his flee from police. His brother and alleged co-conspirator Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police hours before Dzhokhar’s capture. The pair is accused of setting off two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring 170 more.
According to court documents, all three new suspects went to Dzhokhar’s dormitory room on April 18 after they saw images released by the FBI of two suspects, one of which resembled their friend. Kadyrbayev texted Dzhokhar, saying that Dzhokhar looked like the guy being shown on television.
“LOL,” replied Dzhokhar, court documents said. Kadyrbayev took that and other texts like “you better not text me” to be jokes.
It wasn’t until the teens noticed fireworks with missing powder in Dzhokhar’s room that Kadyrbayev allegedly “knew” his friend was involved with the deadly attack.
Kadyrbayev decided to take the backpack “to help his friend [Dzhokhar] avoid trouble” and took the laptop because he didn’t want Dzhokhar’s roommate to think he was behaving suspiciously. The documents assert that later Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov decided together to throw the backpack and fireworks in the trash.
Robert Stahl, an attorney for Kadyrbayev, said Wednesday his client was not aware Dzhokhar was a suspect in the bombing when he took the backpack and laptop and did not know the items might have been involved in a bombing or were of evidentiary value. Harlan Protass, an attorney for Tazhayakov, said that his client has cooperated fully with authorities and “looks forward” to the truth coming out in his case.
Prosecutors said Phillipos initially told federal investigators he did not remember going to Dzhokhar’s room and then said the three friends went there but did not go in. In his fourth interview with investigators, however, Phillipos “eventually confessed that he had lied to the agents,” the court documents say.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face up to five years in prison and Phillipos faces a maximum sentence of up to eight years if convicted, the DOJ said.
Late Tuesday, the Tsarnaev family was deciding what to do with Tamerlan’s body.
Bella Tsarnaev, one of the young man’s sisters, told ABC News in her first public statement that she and her sister Ailina have planned a proper Muslim burial for Tamerlan.
When the Massachusetts Medical Examiner’s Office was ready to release her husband’s body, Tamerlan’s widow Katherine Russell declined to take it herself, according to her attorney.
“It is Katherine Russell’s wish that his remains be released to the Tsarnaev family, and we will communicate her wishes to the proper authorities,” attorney Amato DeLuca said Tuesday. DeLuca also said Russell has been meeting with law enforcement and is providing “as much assistance to the investigation as she can.”
The statement came as investigators said they may have pinpointed a turning point in Tamerlan’s growth into alleged radical: a 2012 trip to Russia in which he may have had contact with Russian Islamists.
American officials said they are investigating whether Tamerlan had been in contact over the Internet with a man named William Plotnikov, a Russian-Canadian and a fellow boxer, who had converted to Islam and joined the militant insurgency in the North Caucasus. Plotnikov was killed by Russian authorities while Tamerlan was in Russia, and Tamerlan left the country just days later.
Investigators also want to know what Tamerlan was doing with a known militant recruiter in the region named Mansur Mukhamed Nidal, with whom Tamerlan was repeatedly seen leaving a controversial mosque in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. Nidal was also killed by Russian authorities while Tamerlan was in Russia.
But despite what authorities said was photographic evidence the Tsarnaev brothers were behind the Boston bombing and comments reportedly from the surviving brother about how they executed the plot, family friend Britney Smith told ABC News she’s not convinced.
“I was always taught to believe what you see and…what I see is two people walking with book bags. I don’t see them planting down explosives. I don’t see book bags being dropped,” Smith said, apparently referring to images widely circulated by the FBI that show the brothers with bags either near or heading in the direction of each of the bomb sites. “If he [Dzhokhar] gets convicted and I see proof of him doing it, then I will be in total shock. I would be in disbelief and disgust that he would do that.”
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