In the days following the Boston Marathon bombings April 15, accused suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev texted with a college friend, thrusting him and two others into the precarious situation of helping the man who may have attacked the city.
Dias Kadyrbayev, 19, Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, and Robel Phillipos, 20, looked every bit as young in their initial federal court appearance Wednesday afternoon as their actions in the days following the bombing would indicate, according to the federal criminal complaint against them.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov each face one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, and Phillipos faces a charge of making false statements in a terrorism investigation. Each voluntarily denied bail and were detained following their appearance before Judge Marianne B. Bowler at John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, nationals of Kazakhstan who were in immigration court Wednesday morning because of expired student visas, face a maximum penalty of five years in prison with three years supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Phillipos faces a maximum penalty of an eight-year prison term with three years supervised release and a fine of $250,000. All three said they would be able to afford lawyers.
Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos, who all attended University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with Tsarnaev, are accused of disposing of a backpack they found in Tsarnaev’s Pine Dale Hall dorm room that contained fireworks emptied of gunpowder and a laptop computer at around 10 p.m. on April 18.
Kadyrbayev allegedly stuffed the backpack, fireworks and laptop in a black trash bag and threw it in a trash dumpster near the Carriage Drive apartments in New Bedford where Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov lived.
Hours before, after seeing the photos released by the FBI of Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Kadyrbayev texted Dzokhar Tsarnaev and told him he looks like the suspect, according to the complaint, filed by FBI special agent Scott P. Cieplik. It was then that they decided to go to Tsarnaev’s dorm room and take action.
“Tsarnaev’s return texts contained ‘lol’ and other things Kadyrbayev interpreted as jokes such as ‘you better not text me’ and ‘come to my room and take whatever you want,’” the complaint says.
In court, the stone-faced, soft-spoken suspects appeared in T-shirts, a sweatshirt and jeans. At one point Bowler scolded Phillipos for not paying attention.
“I suggest you pay attention to me rather than looking down,” she said.
Phillipos, from Cambridge, is accused of lying to federal investigators about his role in the attempted cover up.
In an April 19 inverview, he told investigators he did not go to Tsarnaev’s dorm room after texting with Kadyrbayev April 18. He later said the three men were not let into Tsarnaev’s room because it was locked so they left.
During a fourth and final interview April 26, Phillipos admitted to lying about those events and confessed that he had entered Tsarnaev’s dorm room and helped conspire to throw away the evidence, according to the complaint.
Once the three men took Tsarnaev’s backback, Kadyrbayev drove them all back to the Carriage Drive apartments with it.
“Once at the apartment, [we] started to freak out, because it became clear from a CNN reprt that we were watching that [Dzokhar] was one of the Boston Marathon bombers,” Phillipos said to investigators in the complaint.
After an 11 p.m. discussion between the three men about what to do with the backpack April 18, the complaint says Phillipos told Kadyrbayev to “do what you have to do.”
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov will next be in court May 14. Phillipos will appear May 6.