Friend of Boston suspect released from jail
BOSTON (CNN) — One of three friends accused of helping Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev cover up his alleged crime got out on bond Monday, released to his mother’s custody.
Robel Phillipos left the federal courthouse in a red Toyota sedan after a judge set bail at $100,000. He will stay at his mother’s home, where he was living before his arrest last week, and be monitored electronically, according to terms his lawyers and prosecutors agreed to before Monday’s hearing.
“I’m certainly happy for his mother and his family,” family friend Michelle Borden told reporters outside the courthouse. “Now he has the comfort and the guidance he needs.”
The courtroom was filled with friends and relatives during the Monday’s hearing, during which Phillipos appeared in jail coveralls and handcuffs.
“Now we look forward to defending him in the coming months,” defense lawyer Derege Demissie said. “We are confident in the end he will be able to clear his name.”
The FBI says that on April 18, the three friends — Phillipos, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev — went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. According to court documents, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev removed items from the room, including a laptop and a backpack loaded with fireworks, while Phillipos made false statements to bombing investigators.
Phillipos is a U.S. citizen and a Boston native. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are from Kazakhstan and had visas to study in the United States.
“At no time did Robel have any prior knowledge of this marathon bombing, nor did he participate in the planning done by the defendant in this case,” Phillipos co-counsel Susan Church said. “He is not charged with, nor is he alleged to have disposed with, the backpack, or had any role in what the two other students who are here on visas did with the backpack.”
Here are the latest developments in the cases:
Phillipos was a “frightened and confused 19-year-old” when authorities questioned him several times in the days that followed the April 15 bombing, which killed three people and wounded more than 260. Police believe Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off the two bombs near the race’s finish line.
Phillipos was under tremendous pressure when he was interrogated and didn’t have an attorney at the time to help him, according to his attorneys. In asking for bail, attorneys said their client’s future has been ruined by the arrest.
“He will suffer its enduring and devastating effect for the rest of his life. The only way he can salvage his future is by clearing his name,” the documents say.
Phillipos faces up to eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. The judge Monday warned Phillipos not to tamper with witnesses on the threat of being locked up again.
He attended high school with the younger Tsarnaev at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where they both live.
According to the court document, Phillipos hadn’t seen or talked to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for at least two months before the bombing. He was taking a semester off from UMass-Dartmouth and was only on campus the night of April 18 for a seminar.
The document says Phillipos’ presence on campus that night is a case of “sheer coincidence and bad luck.”
Phillipos was living with his mother, an Ethiopian who immigrated to the United States in the 1980s and is now employed as a social worker.
“Everyone knows Robel as being a compassionate, thoughtful and sociable person,” his mother, Genet Bekele, said in an affidavit.
Previously, a friend described Phillipos as a good kid who took care of his mom.
James Turney told CNN affiliate WBZ: “Phillipos plays basketball and doesn’t have any anti-American thing about him.”
Tazhayakov’s father, Amir Ismagulov, told CNN he met with his son for about 40 minutes last week. Both father and son believe in the U.S. justice system, Ismagulov said.
The government will get to the bottom of what happened and let Tazhayakov go, said the father, speaking in Russian. He was in the “wrong place, (at the) wrong time, with (the) wrong people,” his father said.
Tazhayakov is due back in court May 14. He was already in federal custody on immigration charges related to his student visa, having been arrested in the days after the bombings due to his friendship with Tsarnaev.
The Kazakhstan native is charged with obstruction of justice. If found guilty, he could face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
He is being represented by Arkady Bukh, an attorney based in New York.
Ismagulov said his son always admired and wanted to come to the United States. He was here to study engineering and work in the oil business, his father said.
Teenagers sometimes do stupid things, said Ismagulov, stressing that his son didn’t know he was doing anything wrong.
Ismagulov said that he asked his son whether he had wanted to help Tsarnaev.
He apparently told his father no, saying that if they had wanted to help Tsarnaev, he and Kadyrbayev would have thrown out the bombing suspect’s laptop and buried his backpack in the ground.
Investigators found the backpack, loaded with fireworks, in a landfill after a two-day search.
Tsarnaev’s laptop was turned over by Kadyrbayev on April 19, the same day the FBI raided the apartment he shared with Tazhayakov, Kadyrbayev’s attorney Robert Stahl said.
According to the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Tazhayakov is enrolled but has been suspended pending the outcome of the case.
Kadyrbayev also remains in jail, awaiting a May 14 court date.
According to an FBI affidavit, Kadyrbayev had seen pictures of the suspects released by the FBI on April 18 and texted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to tell him “he looked like the suspect on television.” Tsarnaev texted back “lol” and added, “come to my room and take whatever you want.”‘
Attorney Stahl also said his client “did not have anything to do” with the bombings and disputed that he tried to block the investigation.
Kadyrbayev, a Kazakh national, was taken into custody along with Tazhayakov on April 20 on suspicion that he had violated the terms of his student visa, Stahl said.
According to an interview his father gave in April, Kadyrbayev, 19, “missed a couple, or maybe several classes.”
“I can say about my son that he finished school with excellent grades; he was good at math. He helped others. When he saw that help was needed, he always accommodated,” Murat Kadyrbayev told Tengi News and STV channel in Kazakhstan.
Kadyrbayev is not currently enrolled at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
He is charged with obstruction of justice and could face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines if found guilty.
Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry said it was offering consular services to both Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov. “We would like to emphasize that our citizens did not receive charges of involvement in the organization of the Boston Marathon bombings. They were charged with destroying evidence,” the ministry said in a statement.