Three friends of accused Boston Marathon terror suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were arrested today on suspicion of concealing evidence and lying to federal agents in the wake of the deadly bombing.
Dias Kadyrbayev, 19, Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, both of New Bedford, and Robel Phillipos, 20, of Cambridge, are facing charges of obstruction of justice.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are both accused of removing a backpack containing fireworks and a laptop from Boston Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm. Both were arraigned today in U.S. federal court in Boston, shackled at the wrists and ankles. They face up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
During their court appearance today, they appeared to be frightened young men; both small in stature. They did not speak much during the proceedings, except to say they understood their rights and could afford a lawyer.
Prosecutors said the pair admitted to throwing the evidence into a dumpster outside a Carriage Drive apartment in New Bedford three days after the Marathon Bombing.
Phillipos was specifically charged with lying to investigators during several interviews after Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov allegedly hid Tsarnaev's belongings. Prosecutors said Phillipos confessed to lying on April 26.
He faces up to eight years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Prosecutors allege that Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, Kazakhstan nationals who were taken into ICE custody on April 20 for student visa violations, became alarmed on the evening of April 18 when Tsarnaev's photograph was released by the FBI.
They collectively decided to conceal Tsarnaev's belongings "because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble," according to the criminal complaint.
A glimpse at the timeline:
On April 17 - two days after the Boston Marathon attack - Kahyrbayev hung out with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at his Pine Dale Hall dorm at UMass Dartmouth. He noticed Tsarnaev had a short haircut. They chatted and smoked a cigarette. Later that night, Tsarnaev hung out at Tazhayakov's Carriage Drive apartment in New Bedford - until about midnight.
At 5 p.m. April 18 - The FBI released photographs of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Kadyrbayev got a call from Phillipos, "who told him to put on the news because one of the suspects in the Marathon bombings looked familiar." Kadyrbayev texted Tsarnaev and told him that he looked liked the suspect on television. Tsarnaev's responded with "lol," "you better not text me," and "come to my room and take whatever you want."
Around 6 p.m. on April 18 - Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos went to Tsarnaev's dorm room (Tsarnaev had apparently just stepped out). A roommate let them in. They were watching a movie when they noticed a backpack containing fireworks - fireworks that had been emptied of powder. They also found a jar of Vaseline That's when Kadyrbayev allegedly realized that his friend was behind the bombing.
Around 10 p.m. on April 18 - The three men returned to the Carriage Drive apartment in New Bedford and "collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble."
At 6 a.m. on April 19 - News reports revealed that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was dead. At that point Kadyrbayev allegedly placed Tsarnaev's items in the trash. The items were later recovered by investigators at the Crapo Hill landfill in New Bedford. The three men were interviewed by law enforcement that day, and later that night, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested in Watertown.
April 20 - Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were detained by ICE for allegedly violating the terms of student visas. They have been detained since then, but officially arrested on obstruction of justice charges today.
Kadyrbayev's lawyer said he is "absolutely denies the charges. Dias assisted the FBI in this investigation. he is just as shocked and horrified by the (bombings) as the rest of the community is," said Kadyrbayev's lawyer Robert Stahl. "He did not have anything to do (with the attack)." "He did not know that those items were involved in the bombing," his lawyer said.
Tazhayakov is enrolled as a student at UMass Dartmouth, where Tsarnaev attended school, but according to school officials, has been suspended pending the outcome of the case. The other two men are not enrolled at the school.
A lawyer for Tazhayakov said his client "feels horrible and is shocked to hear that somebody he knew at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth was involved with the Boston Marathon bombing.... He cooperated fully with authorities and looks forward to the truth coming out with this case... He feels for the people in Boston who have suffered as a result of the Marathon bombing."
Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are due back in court on May 14, and Phillipos is due in court Monday.