Robel Phillipos: Friend of Boston bomber asks for release after allegedly lying to investigators

Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge allegedly lied to investigators to cover accused Boston bomber's tracks. PHOTO: NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO
Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge allegedly lied to investigators to cover accused Boston bomber’s tracks. PHOTO: NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

Lawyers for Robel Phillipos, a teen charged with lying to investigators after the Boston Marathon bombings, want a federal judge to release him from jail on the basis that he was not behind the terror attack and does not pose a flight risk.

Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge, is due in U.S. District Court Monday for a detention hearing , where his defense is expected to deny authorities’ claim that Phillipos gave them conflicting accounts.

“This case is about a frightened and confused 19-year-old who was subjected to intense questioning and interrogation, without the benefit of counsel, and in the context of one of the worst attacks against the nation,” lawyers Derege Demissie and Susan Church wrote. “The weight of the federal government under such circumstances can have a devastatingly crushing effect on the ability of an adolescent to withstand the enormous pressure and respond rationally.”

Last week Phillipos was charged with lying to federal investigators about visiting bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s college dorm room on April 18, three days after the bombings. Two other friends, Dias Kadyrbayev, 19, Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice by taking a backpack with fireworks and a laptop from Tsarnaev’s dorm room.

Prosecutors said Phillipos confessed to lying on April 26. He faces up to eight years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Phillipos lawyers claim he was at the university “by sheer coincidence and bad luck,” and that he had taken a leave of absence in December and hadn’t spoken to Tsarnaev or the other two men for more than two months.

In an affidavit, Philipos’ mother, Genet Bekele, wrote: “My son wants nothing more than the opportunity to clear his name. My whole family is  in complete shock over the accusation made against him. We are all in disbelief that this is actually happening to our family…The whole family is committed to helping him fight the charged filed against him.”

She said she has “no doubt” that Phillipos will abide by any condition of release.

Defense lawyers described the teen as “friendly, kind, and genuine.”

“The charge has ruined his once bright future. He will suffer its enduring and devastating effect for the rest of his life. The only way he can salvage his future is by clearing his name,” his lawyers wrote. “He is committed to do just that.”

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS


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