FBI: 3 Men Removed Backpack From Boston Bombing Suspect’s Room
BOSTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Three men who went to school with one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects have been charged in connection with the case, authorities announced Wednesday.
As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, the three – all 19-year-old students at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, face serious charges.
Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice, according to court documents. A third man, Robel Phillipos, is charged with making false statements to federal investigators.
The suspects face between to five and eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“They made the arrests. These individuals were associated with one of the brothers, and helped out with the bombing,” said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
Tazhayakov and Kradyrbavev waived a request for bail at their arraignment in federal court Wednesday, CBS Boston reported. Both are due back in court May 14.
Phillipos waived his right for a detention hearing and will be back in court on Monday.
“Dias Kadyrbayev absolutely denies the charges,” his attorney, Robert Stahl, said after the arraignment. “As we have said from the very beginning, he assisted the FBI in this investigation. He is just as shocked and horrified by the violence in Boston that took place as the rest of the community is. He did not know that this individual was involved in the bombing.”
Stahl said Kadyrbayev did not immediately recognize Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the person involved in the bombings.
Azamat Tazhayakov’s attorney, Harlan Protass, said his client was shocked to hear that someone he knew was involved in the bombings.
“He has cooperated fully with the authorities and looks forward to the truth coming out in this case,” Protass said.
The FBI affidavit said Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev agreed to get rid of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s backpack after concluding from news reports that he was one of the alleged bombers.
READ: Complaint 1 (.pdf)
Authorities allege that on the night of April 18, after the FBI released photos of the bombing suspects, Kadyrbayev texted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and told him he looked like the suspect on television.
Tsarnaev responded with “LOL” and “you better not text me,” and also, “come to my room and take whatever you want,” a criminal complaint said.
READ: Complaint 2 (.pdf)
The complaint said the three went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room. The men noticed a backpack containing fireworks, which had been opened and emptied of powder.
The FBI said that Kadyrbayev knew when he saw the empty fireworks that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombings and decided to remove the backpack from the room “in order to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble.” He also decided to remove Tsarnaev’s laptop, the FBI said in the affidavit.
After the three men returned to Kadyrbayev’s and Tazhayakov’s apartment with the backpack and computer, they watched news reports featuring photographs of Tsarnaev. The affidavit said Kadyrbayev told authorities the three men then “collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble.”
Kadyrbayev said he placed the backpack and fireworks along with trash from the apartment into a large trash bag and threw it into a garbage bin near the men’s apartment.
On April 26, law enforcement agents searching a landfill in New Bedford, Mass., found the backpack. Inside were the fireworks, Vaseline, and a UMass Dartmouth homework assignment sheet, authorities said.
The complaint also said one month before the Boston Marathon bombings while eating a meal, Tsarnaev told Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov “that he knew how to make a bomb.”
Originally from Kazakhstan, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are not U.S. citizens and have been held in a county jail for more than a week on allegations that they violated their student visas.
All three men charged Wednesday began attending UMass at Dartmouth with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the same time in 2011, the FBI affidavit said.
One of the defendants was even with Tsarnaev a few months ago when he was setting off fireworks along the Charles River in Boston, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were also seen posing in a picture with Tsarnaev and two other friends in Times Square around the third week of April last year.
Boston police first announced the latest developments in the case in a tweet Wednesday morning. They also said on their Twitter feed that there was no threat to the public.
Two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others.
Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunfight with police several days later. His brother Dzhokhar was captured and lies in a prison hospital.
The NYPD was notified by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force last week that the brothers had planned to attack Times Square just days after the twin bombings in Boston, police said.
The potentially deadly scheme fell apart when the brothers realized the vehicle they had carjacked the night of April 18 was low on gas, police said.
Later that night, police intercepted the brothers in a blazing gun battle and manhunt that eventually led to Tamerlan’s death and Dzhokhar’s capture.
Dzhokhar is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, a crime that carries a potential death sentence.
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