Friend Says Boston Bombing Suspect Spoke of Building Bomb

NYT | JULY 7, 2014

BOSTON — A federal prosecutor told jurors on Monday that a college friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, believed that his friend had been involved in the attack and tried to cover up incriminating evidence.

In her opening arguments, Stephanie Siegmann, an assistant United States attorney, also asserted that at a restaurant in March 2013, a month before the bombing, Mr. Tsarnaev told the defendant, Azamat Tazhayakov, and another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, that he knew how to build a bomb and that gunpowder would be needed. Ms. Siegmann said Mr. Tsarnaev also discussed martyrdom with his friends during the meal, saying, “You would die with a smile on your face and go straight to heaven.”

Then, Ms. Siegmann said, less than two hours after the bombings, Mr. Tsarnaev texted Mr. Tazhayakov the words, “Don’t go thinking it’s me.”

She then laid out the case against Mr. Tazhayakov, and said that, shortly after the F.B.I. released images of the bombing suspects, he went with Mr. Kadyrbayev to Mr. Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. There, she said, the pair took items including a backpack containing fireworks and a jar of Vaseline, which Mr. Kadyrbayev said he believed had been used in bomb-making. A bag of marijuana was also taken, Ms. Siegmann said. Investigators later found Mr. Tsarnaev’s laptop in the apartment of Mr. Tazhayakov and Mr. Kadyrbayev. Ms. Siegmann said the two discussed what to do with the backpack before Mr. Kadyrbayev threw it in a Dumpster outside of the apartment; investigators later found it in a landfill.

“When they removed all these things, the defendant thought that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was one of the Boston Marathon bombers,” Ms. Siegmann said. She accused the duo of “removing evidence, hiding evidence” in an effort “to protect their friend.” Mr. Tazhayakov is charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy. He faces 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge, and five years on the conspiracy charge.

Mr. Tazhayakov is not accused of having any involvement with the actual bombing — a fact that his lawyer, Nicholas Wooldridge, made plain at the beginning of his opening argument. “It’s not about the bombing,” Mr. Wooldridge told jurors. “Don’t get sidetracked. Don’t get shocked and awed.”

Mr. Wooldridge tried to distance Mr. Tazhayakov from the act of removing items from Mr. Tsarnaev’s room and discarding the backpack. Mr. Wooldridge said that it was Mr. Kadyrbayev, hunting for marijuana, who had initiated the search of the dorm room and who had taken the backpack and thrown it in a Dumpster. This, the lawyer said, was at the request of Mr. Kadyrbayev’s girlfriend, who has not been charged.

Mr. Tazhayakov “never took a backpack out of the dorm room, he never even touched that backpack, and he sure never tossed it,” said Mr. Wooldridge, who said that his client did remove a pair of his own headphones from the room and that he was watching a movie while Mr. Kadyrbayev threw the backpack away. Mr. Kadyrbayev and Mr. Tazhayakov are natives of Kazakhstan who entered the country with student visas.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, and his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, have been accused of making the bombs — two pressure cookers filled with explosives and shrapnel — which blew up near the finish line of the race, killing three people and wounding about 260 more. During a manhunt, the police say, the two brothers shot and killed a campus police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, carjacked a vehicle and led officers on a chase, throwing several pipe bombs from the vehicle. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout; Dzhokhar was found hiding in a boat in nearby Watertown, badly wounded.

On Monday in Federal District Court, Mr. Tazhayakov, 20, wore a dark suit and leaned back in his chair, sometimes listening to an interpreter through an earpiece or writing on a pad of paper, as what, for most college students, might be mundanities — his circle of friends, their marijuana habits, their text messages — were dissected in court. He has pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Tazhayakov is the first in a group of three of Mr. Tsarnaev’s friends to go to trial on obstruction charges. Mr. Kadyrbayev is to be tried on charges similar to Mr. Tazhayakov’s in September; another friend, Robel Phillipos, is to be tried the same month on two counts of making false statements.

Liz Norden, the mother of J. P. and Paul Norden, brothers who each lost a leg in the bombings, was in the courtroom as a spectator. Mr. Tazhayakov’s parents were also present. His father, Amir Ismagulov, is a Kazakh oil executive and former member of Parliament there.

Mr. Tsarnaev has yet to be tried, but faces about 30 criminal charges, 17 of which carry the death penalty. His trial is scheduled for later this year.


Testimony in Boston Bomb Trial Focuses on Backpack
NYT | JULY 8, 2014

BOSTON — An F.B.I. agent told a federal court here on Tuesday that Azamat Tazhayakov, a college friend of the surviving Boston bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, agreed that a backpack found in Mr. Tsarnaev’s dorm room in the days after the bombing should be thrown away.

It was the second day of the trial of Mr. Tazhayakov, 20, who is accused, along with his friend Dias Kadyrbayev, of hindering the investigation into the bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Prosecutors are seeking to prove that the two men entered Mr. Tsarnaev’s room on April 18, believing him to be the bombing suspect; removed several items, including a laptop and the backpack, which contained fireworks; and agreed to dispose of the backpack, which was later found in a landfill.

Mr. Kadyrbayev’s trial is scheduled for September. Both men face one count each of obstruction of justice and conspiracy; the obstruction charge carries a sentence of 20 years in prison, and conspiracy five years.

While on the stand Tuesday, the agent, Sara Wood, who interviewed Mr. Tazhayakov at a state police barracks for four and a half hours on April 19, said Mr. Tazhayakov told her that he had been present when Mr. Kadyrbayev found the backpack in Mr. Tsarnaev’s room, and that he was scared when he realized that what he called “gunpowder” was missing from an opened firework.

Ms. Wood said Mr. Tazhayakov described Mr. Kadyrbayev as pacing once they returned home with the backpack.

“He said he agreed to throwing the backpack out,” Ms. Wood said to Matthew Myers, a lawyer representing Mr. Tazhayakov.

Mr. Myers tried to cast doubt on Ms. Wood’s testimony, emphasizing that Mr. Tazhayakov’s interview was not recorded and that his client did not provide a written statement to the authorities. Mr. Tazhayakov’s defense team contends that Mr. Kadyrbayev removed the backpack from the room and says evidence does not show that Mr. Tazhayakov agreed to dispose of it.

Also testifying Tuesday was Andrew Dwinells, Mr. Tsarnaev’s roommate at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Mr. Dwinells said Mr. Tsarnaev’s behavior did not change much in the days after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the marathon, killing three people and wounding more than 260.

“He slept a little bit more, but that was it,” Mr. Dwinells, an engineering student, said.


Roommate Testifies Marathon Bombing Suspect Acted Normal After Attack
By Denise Lavoie
Associated Press | July 8, 2014

BOSTON (AP) – Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did not seem nervous or agitated in the days after the deadly attack, his former college roommate testified Tuesday during the trial of a Tsarnaev friend accused of obstructing the investigation.

In the few days after the April 2013 bombing, Andrew Dwinells said, Tsarnaev spent much of his time the same way he always did — sleeping, texting and going on his computer.

“He slept a little bit more, but that was it,” Dwinells said.

Dwinells’ testimony came during the trial of Azamat Tazhayakov, who is accused with another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, of removing items from Tsarnaev’s University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth dorm room three days after the bombings and hours after the FBI posted video and photos of Tsarnaev as a suspect.

His description of Tsarnaev’s behavior after the bombings was elicited by Tazhayakov’s attorneys during cross-examination and appeared designed to underscore the defense’s contention that none of the people who knew Tsarnaev — including Tazhayakov — had any idea that Tsarnaev was a suspect in the bombings until after the FBI released his photo.

During questioning by prosecutors, Dwinells said he and Tsarnaev shared a room but didn’t talk much and never socialized together.

Dwinells described the night of April 18, 2013, when prosecutors say Tazhayakov, Kadyrbayev and another friend went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room after Tsarnaev texted Kadyrbayev and said they could “take what’s there.”

Dwinells said a man he later learned was Kadyrbayev “said he needed to get into the room to get something.”

After getting a small bag of marijuana out of a desk drawer, Kadyrbayev continued to look around the room for another 10 minutes, but Dwinells said he did not see any other items being taken. Dwinells said the other men — Tazhayakov and Robel Phillipos — sat down and watched TV while Kadyrbayev searched the room.

Prosecutors contend that Tazhayakov agreed with Kadyrbayev’s plan to take a backpack containing altered fireworks and to throw away the items to protect Tsarnaev.

Tazhayakov’s lawyers insist that he sat passively in the dorm room while Kadyrbayev took the backpack and did not participate in the decision to throw it away.

Two bombs placed near the marathon finish line killed three people and injured more than 260.


Feds: Bombing suspect told UMass roomies he wanted to die a martyr
Laurel J. Sweet
Boston Herald | July 7, 2014

One month before Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly helped his big brother detonate two bombs at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, the UMass-Dartmouth student told his two roommates he wanted to die a martyr, “as you die with a smile on your face and go straight to heaven,” prosecutors said today.

The exchange was revealed for the first time today by federal prosecutors as one of those roommates, Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, became the first suspect connected to the deadly terrorist attack to be brought to trial.

In her 45-minute opening statement before U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock and a jury of 18, assistant U.S. Attorney B. Stephanie Siegmann said Tsarnaev also volunteered to Tazhayakov and his charged co-conspirator Dias Kadyrbayev during that same dinner out at a North Dartmouth restaurant that he knew how to make a bomb.

Siegmann said less than two hours after the pressure cooker bombs exploded in Copley Square, Tsarnaev texted Tazhayakov, “Don’t go thinking it’s me, you cooked bastard.”

Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, who will be tried separately, are accused of conspiring to obstruct justice by removing a laptop, backpack, fireworks, a jar of Vasoline and other items from Tsarnaev’s dorm room and tossing some of the goods in a Dumpster that were later recovered from a New Bedford landfill.

Siegmann told jurors Tazhayakov knew a full eight hours before Tsarnaev was publicly identified as one of the suspected bombers that he was involved.

But Tazhayakov’s lawyer Nicholas Wooldridge cautioned the jury this trial “is not about the bombing. Don’t get sidetracked. Don’t get shocked and awed. I’ll tell you right now, he didn’t do it.”

Far from trying to cover his pal’s tracks, Wooldridge said, Tazhayakov was “appalled by what his ex-friend had done. He wanted nothing to do with the guy.”

Tazhayakov is listening to the proceedings with the aid of a Russian interpreter. He was originally arrested for being in the country illegally due to an expired student visa.


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