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Three friends of Boston bombing suspect plead not guilty

8:33 PM, Sep 13, 2013   |    comments
Robel Phillipos (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)
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Two friends of Boston Marathon bombings suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty on Friday to a superseding federal indictment charging them with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstructing justice with intent to impede authorities.

A third friend, Robel Phillipos, pleaded not guilty to making false statements to FBI agents during the bombings investigation.

Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov previously voiced their not guilty pleas on each of the counts during their arraignment on Aug. 13, but had to reenter their pleas in Boston to the new indictment, which added Phillipos.

Phillipos remains free on $100,000 bond and is being monitored electronically.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are Kazakh nationals and are being held without bail.

The two roommates began attending the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth the same semester as Tsarnaev. They were taken into custody this spring along with Phillipos, a friend of Tsarnaev's from Cambridge.

"My client is just as shocked and horrified as the rest of us about what happened," said Kadyrbayev's lawyer, Robert Stahl. "He just hopes the American justice prevails and he can return home to his family."

Arkady Bukh, Tazhayakov's attorney, said, "My client was very cooperative with the government."

Phillipos' attorneys, Derege Demissie and Susan Church, said in a statement that the indictment showed that his client "had nothing to do whatsoever with the Boston Marathon Bombing or destroying any evidence afterwards."

"In the end, it will be clear that this prosecution should never have been brought in the first place."

Authorities accuse the trio of helping Tsarnaev after the deadly April 15 bombing by taking items from his dorm room and keeping them from authorities.

This occurred shortly before Tsarnaev was taken into custody after a tense, late-night standoff in Watertown. He and his brother -- who died after a confrontation with police -- are accused of planting two bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line that left three people dead and more than 260 wounded, then killing a campus police officer days later.

Authorities allege on April 18, three days before the FBI searched Tsarnaev's dorm room, Kadyrbayev showed Tazhayakov a text message from Tsarnaev that read, in part, "If yu want yu can go to my room and take what's there" followed by a smiley face emoticon.

That day, the trio allegedly went into the dorm, took Tsarnaev's laptop, as well as a backpack containing Vaseline, a thumb drive, fireworks and a "homework assignment sheet" and took and took them back to Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov's New Bedford apartment, the federal indictment against them states.

"The fireworks container has been opened and manipulated," the indictment says. "As a result, some of the explosive powder was visible."

Kadyrbayev told his friends that he believed Tsarnaev "used the Vaseline 'to make bombs,' or words to that effect," says the indictment.

Either that night or early the next day, with Tazhayakov's knowledge, Kadyrbayev tossed the backpack in a dumpster, according to the charges.

Phillipos is charged with lying to federal agents investigating the bombing, concealing the fact that he, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov had gone into Tsarnaev's room and removed the backpack, the indictment says.

If convicted, Phillipos faces a maximum penalty of up to 16 years in federal prison. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face a maximum penalty of 25 years and also face the possibility of being deported to Kazakhstan.

Their next court date is Oct. 29.

Tsarnaev awaits trial, having pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges tied to the bombing and the subsequent pursuit of he and his brother, Tamerlan.

CNN

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