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Friend accused of discarding evidence

by JESS BIDGOOD New York Times News Service on July 08, 2014 10:25 AM

BOSTON — A federal prosecutor told jurors Monday that a college friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, believed that his friend had been involved in the attack and tried to cover up incriminating evidence.

In her opening arguments, Stephanie Siegmann, an assistant U.S. attorney, also asserted that over dinner in March 2013, a month before the bombing, Tsarnaev told the defendant, Azamat Tazhayakov, and another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, that he knew how to build a bomb. Siegmann said Tsarnaev also discussed martyrdom with his friends during the meal, saying, “You would die with a smile on your face and go straight to heaven.”

She then laid out the case against Tazhayakov, and said that, shortly after the FBI released images of the bombing suspects, he went with Kadyrbayev to Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. There, she said, the pair took items including a backpack containing fireworks and a jar of Vaseline, which Kadyrbayev said he believed had been used in bomb-making. Investigators later found Tsarnaev’s laptop in the apartment of Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev. Siegmann said the two discussed what to do with the backpack before Kadyrbayev threw it in a Dumpster outside of the apartment; investigators later found it in a landfill.

“When they removed all these things, the defendant thought that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was one of the Boston Marathon bombers,” Siegmann said. Tazhayakov is charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy. He faces 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge, and five years on the conspiracy charge. Tazhayakov is not accused of having any involvement with the actual bombing — a fact that his lawyer, Nicholas Wooldridge, made plain at the beginning of his opening argument. “It’s not about the bombing,” Wooldridge told jurors.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, and his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, have been accused of making the bombs — two pressure cookers filled with explosives and shrapnel — that blew up near the finish line of the race, killing three people and injuring about 260 more.

Tazhayakov is the first in a group of three of Tsarnaev’s college friends to go to trial on obstruction charges. Kadyrbayev is to be tried on charges similar to Tazhayakov in September; another friend, Robel Phillipos, is to be tried the same month on two counts of making false statements.

Tsarnaev has yet to be tried, but faces about 30 criminal charges, 17 of which carry the death penalty. His trial is scheduled for later this year.

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