The trial of the first of three friends of the accused Boston Marathon bomber who prosecutors say removed items from the suspect's dorm room as police were conducting a manhunt is set to wrap up with closing arguments on Wednesday.
U.S. prosecutors contend that Kazakh exchange student Azamat Tazhayakov, accompanied by two friends, went to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm room three days after the April 15, 2013, attack that killed three people and injured 264 and removed a laptop computer and backpack containing empty fireworks shells.
Tazhayakov, now 20, and his roommate, Dias Kadyrbayev, decided later that night to throw away the backpack after growing concerned their friend Tsarnaev was a suspect in the investigation, contend prosecutors, who charged them with obstruction of justice and conspiracy.
Attorneys for Tazhayakov contend their client never touched the laptop or the backpack, describing him as simply accompanying Kadyrbayev to the room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth on April 18, 2013, hours after the FBI released surveillance photos showing Tsarnaev and his older brother at the attack site.
During six days of testimony at Tazhayakov's trial in U.S. District Court in Boston, jurors heard FBI agents testify that Tazhayakov admitted taking the backpack and later watching as a garbage truck hauled away the contents of a dumpster in which it had been dropped.
But they also saw a videotaped deposition of Kadyrbayev's girlfriend, who has not been charged, in which she said she told Kadyrbayev to "get it out" of his apartment in New Bedford, Mass., about 50 miles south of Boston.
Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, who is to be tried separately later this year, were ordered out of their apartment by heavily armed law enforcement agents during the April 19, 2013, manhunt for Tsarnaev and questioned until the predawn hours of the next morning at a state police barracks.
Statements ruled admissible
Tazhayakov's attorneys had sought to persuade U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock to throw out the statements he made during that interrogation, describing them as involuntary. Woodlock said on Tuesday the statements may have been "improvident" but were admissible.
Tazhayakov could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy. Kadyrbayev faces the same charges.
Both men were arrested on immigration charges on April 20, 2013, and have since been in federal custody.
The third friend, Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Mass., is accused of the lesser charge of lying to investigators.
The three men are not charged with any role in the bombing.
Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan, died after a gunbattle with police days after the bombing. The surviving brother is awaiting trial on charges that carry the death penalty.
ReutersCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun