BOSTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged by federal prosecutors in his hospital room Monday with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction — a crime that carries a possible death sentence.
Tsarnaev remains in serious condition and virtually unable to speak with a gunshot wound to the throat.
He uttered only one word to a U.S. Magistrate judge Monday afternoon, saying, “No,” when asked if he could afford a lawyer, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.
He has been answering other questions with a nod, or pen and paper.
WEB EXTRA: Read The Complaint Against Tsarnaev (.pdf)
“I find that the defendant is alert, mentally competent and lucid,” the magistrate judge said, according to a transcript of the proceedings. “He is aware of the nature of the proceedings.”
Tsarnaev, 19, told authorities from his hospital bed Monday that he and his brother Tamerlan, 26, acted alone in last week’s attack, officials told CBS News.
Officials have said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother set off the twin explosions at last week’s marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 180. His brother died Friday after a fierce gun battle with police.
“Although our investigation is ongoing, today’s charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston and for our country,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with each of the bombing victims and brave law enforcement professionals who lost their lives or suffered serious injuries as a result of this week’s senseless violence.”
In addition to the weapon of mass destruction charge, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged with one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death, according to the criminal complaint.
“The impact of these crimes has been far-reaching, affecting a worldwide community that is looking for peace and justice. We hope that this prosecution will bring some small measure of comfort both to the public at large and to the victims and their families that justice will be served,” said Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
Two U.S. officials said preliminary evidence from an interrogation suggests the suspects were motivated by religion, but were apparently not tied to any Islamic terrorist groups.
The two brothers, from southern Russia, practiced Islam. The U.S. officials spoke Monday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will not be charged as an enemy combatant. The move ended speculation that mounted over the weekend when several Republican lawmakers called for the designation.
Charging Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant would have had a wide range of legal implications. He will instead be tried in federal court.
Tsarnaev also is likely to face state charges in connection with the fatal shooting of MIT police officer Sean Collier in Cambridge, said Stephanie Guyotte, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.
In a criminal complaint outlining the evidence, the FBI said Tsarnaev was seen on surveillance cameras putting a knapsack on the ground near the site of the second blast and then manipulating a cellphone and lifting it to his ear.
“A few seconds after he finishes the call, the large crowd of people around him can be seen reacting to the first explosion,” the complaint said. “Virtually every head turns to the east (towards the finish line) and stares in that directions in apparent bewilderment and alarm. Bomber Two (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev), virtually alone among the individuals in front of the restaurant, appears calm.”
The document does not say whether suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is thought to have used the cell phone as a detonator.
The complaint then goes on to say, “He walks away without his knapsack, having left it on the ground where he had been standing. Approximately 10 seconds later, an explosion occurs in the location where Bomber Two had placed his knapsack.”
The court papers also detailed the long night of crime Thursday and the subsequent search Friday that led to the older brother’s death and the younger one’s capture.