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Friend arrested in Boston bomb probe fights for freedom

Posted at 12:52 PM, May 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-05 12:52:19-04
By Steve Almasy

(CNN) — A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — one of three charged in connection with the case — will appear in court Monday.

Robel Phillipos, charged with lying to investigators, will ask to be released on bond, his lawyers said in a court filing. Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, who are accused of obstruction of justice, have already waived their right to bail.

The FBI says that on April 18 the three friends went to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s college dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Authorities believe two of the men — Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev — removed items from the room, including a laptop and a backpack loaded with fireworks.

Here are the latest developments in their cases:

Robel Phillipos

Lawyers for the Boston native say he was a “frightened and confused 19-year-old” when authorities questioned him several times in the days following the April 15 bombing, which killed three people and wounded more than 260. Police believe Dzhokhar 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 lawyers, Derege Demissie and Susan Church.

In a request for bond filed in federal court, the attorneys say 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 is accused of lying to federal agents and faces up to eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

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 emigrated 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.'”

Azamat Tazhayakov

Tazhayakov, who waived his right to a bail hearing last week, is due back in court May 14. He was already in federal custody on immigration charges regarding his student visa, having been arrested in the days after the bombings due to his friendship with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

According to the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Tazhayakov is enrolled, but was suspended pending the outcome of the case.

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 now is represented by Arkady Bukh, an attorney based in New York.

Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev appear in a photograph with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev taken in New York’s Times Square during an earlier visit.

Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry said last week it was offering consular services to 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.

Dias Kadyrbayev

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.”‘

Kadyrbayev attorney Robert Stahl has said that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s laptop was turned over by his client on April 19, the same day the FBI raided the apartment he shared with Tazhayakov.

Stahl also aid his client “did not have anything to do” with the bombings and disputed that he tried to block the investigation.

Kadyrbayev, also 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, according to Stahl.

According to an interview his father gave in April, the 19-year-old “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.

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