Boston bomb cover-up trial gets conviction

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BOSTON — In the first of the tri­als emerg­ing from the Boston Mara­thon bomb­ing, a col­lege class­mate of the sur­viv­ing sus­pect, Dzhok­har Tsar­naev, on Mon­day was con­victed of try­ing to cover up ev­i­dence that could have in­crim­i­nated his friend in the days af­ter the at­tack 15 months ago.

The de­fen­dant, Az­a­mat Tazhay­akov, 20, was found guilty of con­spir­acy and ob­struc­tion of justice in what will be a se­ries of tri­als lead­ing up to Mr. Tsar­naev’s day in court, which is sched­uled for the fall. With each trial, Boston faces yet an­other reck­on­ing with the events of April 15, 2013, when two home­made bombs killed three peo­ple and in­jured more than 260 oth­ers, some of them se­verely.

Mr. Tsar­naev’s de­fense team has ar­gued that the pros­e­cu­tion of mi­nor fig­ures in ad­vance of his No­vem­ber trial is a ploy by the gov­ern­ment to main­tain a steady drum­beat of re­mind­ers about the bomb­ings.

In the case that ended Mon­day, pros­e­cu­tors said that af­ter Mr. Tazhay­akov and an­other friend, Dias Kady­r­ba­yev, re­al­ized that Mr. Tsar­naev was a sus­pect in the bomb­ing, they re­moved items in­clud­ing a back­pack and a lap­top from Mr. Tsar­naev’s dorm room, and agreed to throw out the back­pack. The men at­tended the Univer­sity of Mas­sa­chu­setts at Dart­mouth. The jury found Mr. Tazhay­akov guilty in con­nec­tion with the re­moval of the back­pack, but not the lap­top.

Mr. Tazhay­akov was the first of four friends of the Tsar­naev broth­ers who faced charges stem­ming from the mar­a­thon in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Mr. Kady­r­ba­yev is set to be tried on the same charges in Sep­tem­ber.

Mr. Tazhay­akov nod­ded and smiled tersely at his fam­ily as he en­tered the court­room.

His lit­tle sis­ter, a tod­dler, was play­ing and grin­ning in the bench with their par­ents. His mother broke into sobs as the ver­dict was read.

The jury de­lib­er­ated for half of Wed­nes­day, most of Thurs­day (be­fore one ju­ror be­came ill), and Mon­day morn­ing.

The six days of tes­ti­mony at Boston’s fed­eral court delved into the re­laxed so­cial dy­nam­ics of the three young men and their friends who played video games and smoked mar­i­juana, and of­fered glimpses of in­sight into Mr. Tsar­naev’s con­duct be­fore and af­ter the bomb­ings.

A month be­fore the mar­a­thon, pros­e­cu­tors said, he dis­cussed mar­tyr­dom and told his friends that he knew how to make a bomb; in the hours af­ter it, he ap­par­ently tex­ted Mr. Tazhay­akov, de­ny­ing his in­volve­ment.

But the fo­cus was on Mr. Tazhay­akov. Pros­e­cu­tors as­serted that he was con­tacted by Mr. Kady­r­ba­yev shortly af­ter sur­veil­lance pho­tos of the Tsar­naev broth­ers were re­leased by the FBI on April 18 — three days af­ter the bomb­ing.

The gov­ern­ment con­tended that the two met, looked at those pho­tos on Mr. Kady­r­ba­yev’s phone, and that Mr. Kady­r­ba­yev showed Mr. Tazhay­akov a text mes­sage from Mr. Tsar­naev im­plor­ing him to “go to my room and take what’s there.”

“Be­fore the FBI knew that Dzhok­har Tsar­naev was a sus­pect in that in­ves­ti­ga­tion, what did this de­fen­dant do? He went to Tsar­naev’s dorm room,” said John A. Capin, an as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney. Mr. Capin said the two men re­moved the back­pack and the lap­top they found there as well as other items, such as a bag of mar­i­juana and a jar of Vase­line. Jurors heard law en­force­ment agents tes­tify that Mr. Tazhay­akov had told them that the two agreed that it should be thrown out.

Another as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney, Steph­a­nie Sieg­mann, said the men acted “to pro­tect their friend Dzhok­har Tsar­naev for one rea­son — be­cause they had learned their friend was the mar­a­thon bomber.”

A de­fense law­yer rep­re­sent­ing Mr. Tazhay­akov, Mat­thew My­ers, said as­ser­tions such as that one were “com­pletely un­sup­ported,” and called into ques­tion the re­li­abil­ity of the FBI agents’ tes­ti­mony, when their con­ver­sa­tions with Mr. Tazhay­akov had not been recorded.

Mr. Tazhay­akov’s law­yers did not call any of their own wit­nesses. But, on cross-ex­ami­na­tion, they em­pha­sized that their cli­ent sat pas­sively in a chair in Mr. Tsar­naev’s room as Mr. Kady­r­ba­yev searched it, and that it was Mr. Kady­r­ba­yev who ac­tu­ally put the back­pack in a dump­ster near the apart­ment the men shared in New Bed­ford, Mass.

“He’s not mov­ing into ac­tion to ob­struct — that’s fab­ri­cated,” Mr. My­ers said dur­ing his clos­ing ar­gu­ment, in which he warned ju­rors re­peat­edly about “guilt by as­so­ci­a­tion,” im­plor­ing them to fo­cus on Mr. Tazhay­akov, not on his friends. “If you want to find a con­spir­acy, you prob­a­bly can, be­cause you’re let­ting the enor­mity of what hap­pened in this town af­fect you,” Mr. My­ers told the ju­rors. “The re­al­ity is, col­lege kids think dif­fer­ently.”

The same eve­ning the two friends went to Mr. Tsar­naev’s dorm room, po­lice say Dzhok­har Tsar­naev and his older brother, Ta­m­er­lan, shot and killed Sean A. Col­lier, a Mas­sa­chu­setts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy cam­pus po­lice of­fi­cer.

They are said to have car­jacked an SUV, then led po­lice of­fi­cers on a chase in which an­other of­fi­cer was wounded, and Ta­m­er­lan Tsar­naev, 26, was even­tu­ally killed.

Dzhok­har Tsar­naev was dis­cov­ered hid­ing in a boat in Water­town, Mass., on April 19.

He is in fed­eral cus­tody and await­ing the No­vem­ber start date of his trial on 30 charges, some of which carry the death pen­alty.

United States - North America - United States government - Massachusetts - Boston - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev - U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation - Tamerlan Tsarnaev


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