Robel Phillipos leaves court on Monday Oct. 6, 2014. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki, Metro
A friend of accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was in court on Tuesday in the trial of another friend, Robel Phillipos, who is charged with lying to agents investigating the 2013 terror attack.
Azamat Tazhayakov, who did not testify during his own trial on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy, took the stand as a prosecution witness on the second day of Phillipos’ trial at U.S. District Court in Boston.
Tazhayakov was convicted in July of removing evidence from Tsarnaev's UMass Dartmouth dormitory, and said he has since struck a deal with the U.S. government to “tell the truth” during Philipos’ trial, as it may help his looming sentencing.
Tazhayakov said he was friends with both Phillipos and Tsarnaev prior to the April 15, 2013 bombings, and would see each them on a daily basis, often meeting at the New Bedford apartment Tazhayakov shared with Dias Kadyrbyev, who has pleaded guilty to obstruction charges for removing the evidence, which included a back pack and empty fireworks.
Tazhayakov testified for about 25 minutes before the court recessed, and is expected to continue testimony on Wednesday.
Earlier in Tuesday’s testimony, an FBI agent who interrogated Phillipos said the then 19-year-old initially denied visiting Tsarnaev’s dorm room three days after the deadly blasts but changed his story while being questioned by the FBI
“He said he recalled going to the dorm room but that was all he could remember. I could not believe that,” FBI agent Michael Delapena.”Towards the end of the interview he then admitted to me that he remembered that he did enter the room.”
In opening statements on Monday, defense attorneys said Phillipos had spent much of April 18, 2013, the day the visit occurred, smoking marijuana. He had little recollection of what he did, but law-enforcement agents interrogating him had refused to accept that answer, the attorneys said.
Delapena testified that Phillipos told him that he, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov discussed what to do with the backpack once they realized late that day that Tsarnaev and his brother were suspects in the bombing.
"In his words, they were freaking out, because now they realized that their friend was involved in the marathon bombing and they had just found these fireworks and they started debating what to do with them," Delapena said. "They said, 'What do you think we should do?' And the defendant said, 'Do what you have to do.'"
Delapena testified that Phillipos told him he then took a two-hour nap and when he woke up the backpack was gone.
Phillipos faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted.
Phillipos, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are not charged with playing any role in the bombing.
Tsarnaev, 21, faces the death penalty if convicted of carrying out the bombing. His brother, Tamerlan, died after a gun battle with police three days after the bombing.
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