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Phillipos found guilty of lying to feds

Robel Phillipos leaves federal court on Tuesday.

Nicolaus Czarnecki, Metro

A U.S. jury on Tuesday found a college friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber guilty of lying to federal investigators probing the deadly terror attack.

Robel Phillipos, 21, was charged with lying about having visited suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm room at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth three days after the 2013 attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.

Phillipos was present when two friends removed a backpack containing empty fireworks shells from the room.

Phillipos was on trial in Boston for two criminal counts of lying to investigators, one for saying he did not remember the visit and one for denying it. He later signed a written confession admitting to it, following an FBI interrogation.

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He faces up to 16 years in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 29. Until then, Phillipos remains under house arrest.

Following Tuesday's verdict, the Cambridge resident showed no emotion when leaving federal court.

Phillipos did not take the stand in his own defense. A defense attorney for Phillipos said his client has not been asked to testify against Tsarnaev, who is set to be tried in January.

“In some ways we are encouraged by the jury's verdict, because they clearly rejected the so called confession that was provided in this case as evidence that Robel had seen the fireworks in the backpack,” Phillipos' attorney Susan Church said outside Moakley Federal Courthouse.

"I don't believe that Robel has been more angry at a person than he is angry at Dzhokhar Tsarnaev," said Church. "When Robel found out, that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did what he did in this case, he was absolutely mortified, it was an unbelievable feeling of shock and betrayal, that somebody that he knew, could commit such horrible, atrocious acts.”

U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock told lawyers that Phillipos' case was "exceptionally well tried."

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement, “Today, we are really gratified with jury’s verdict. With the verdict today, the jury got it exactly right.”

Phillipos' attorneys had argued that their client was too intoxicated on marijuana the day of the visit to have a clear memory of his actions on April 18, 2013, and thus could not have lied.

Over seven days of testimony, a series of FBI agents testified that Phillipos gave conflicting statements about the visit to Tsarnaev's room before signing a statement that he did go.

Of the two friends who accompanied him, both Kazakh exchange students, Azamat Tazhayakov was convicted in July and Dias Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty in August of removing a backpack from the room during a massive manhunt for the bomber.

Defense witnesses included Phillipos' college and high school friends, who testified to his marijuana use and former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, a family friend, who described Phillipos as having been confused during his FBI interviews.

A 12-member jury deliberated for 35 hours over six days.

Tsarnaev, 21, is awaiting trial on charges that carry the death penalty. His brother, who prosecutors said helped carry out the bombing, died after a shootout with police late on the night of April 18, 2013.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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