BOSTON (CBS) – A Quincy taxi driver was charged Friday with obstructing the Boston Marathon bombings investigation.
Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, was arrested at his home before sunrise and charged in a four-count indictment.
Read: The Indictment (.pdf)
The indictment does not claim that Matanov had anything to do with the bombings. Prosecutors say he had dinner with bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev just hours after the attacks, at some point realized the brothers were responsible and then did nothing to alert investigators. He also allegedly lied to authorities several times and tried to destroy computer and cell phone evidence.
Matanov was brought into U.S. District Court in South Boston Friday afternoon in handcuffs, wearing jeans and a white T-shirt. He was offered an interpreter, but he declined, telling U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler he speaks English. He also requested a public defender claiming he cannot afford an attorney.
According to the U.S. Attorney, Matanov is charged with “one count of destroying, altering, and falsifying records, documents, and tangible objects in a federal investigation, specifically information on his computer, and three counts of making materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements in a federal terrorism investigation.”
The maximum sentence for the count of destruction of evidence is 20 years in prison and eight years for each false statement count. All four counts also carry a maximum of three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
“This is the most significant information that has come out on this incident since the initial arrests,” said former Boston Police Commissioner and current WBZ-TV security analyst Ed Davis.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Matanov in a raid of his apartment in Quincy early Friday morning.
According to the 20-page indictment, Matanov is a citizen of Kyrgyzstan who “entered the United States lawfully in 2010, has lived in Massachusetts since then and has worked, among other jobs, as a taxicab driver.”
In court, he said he is single and has no family in the United States. His parents and four brothers are overseas.
Matanov was remanded to custody of U.S. Marshal Service. The detention hearing will continue next Wednesday morning.
His attorney, Ed Hayden, told reporters Matanov is “very frightened and intimidated” and that he is in the U.S. on a student visa after being granted asylum because of the unrest in Kyrgyzstan.
In the indictment, prosecutors said Matanov became friends with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and also knew Dzhokhar.
“Matanov participated in a variety of activities with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, including discussing religious topics and hiking up a New Hampshire mountain in order to train like, and praise, the “mujahideen.”,” federal prosecutors wrote in the indictment, which laid out a timeline of Matanov’s activities starting moments after the bombings on April 15, 2013.
TIMELINE OF ALLEGATIONS
Monday April 15
“About forty minutes after the bombings, at approximately 3:31 p.m. on Monday, April 15, 2013, Matanov called Tamerlan Tsarnaev and invited him to dinner that night. Tamerlan accepted. That night, Matanov bought Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev dinner at a restaurant,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment.
“After Matanov returned home from dinner with the Tsarnaevs following the bombings on Monday, April 15, Matanov spoke with Witness 1 (whose name is known to the Grand Jury). When Witness 1 told Matanov that Witness 1 hoped that the Boston Marathon bombers were not Muslim, Matanov initially responded that the bombings could have had a just reason, such as being done in the name of Islam, that he would support the bombings if the reason were just or the attack had been done by the Taliban, and that the victims had gone to paradise,” prosecutors wrote.
Wednesday April 17
Federal investigators say Matanov called both Tsarnaevs several times on Wednesday, April 17, two days after the bombings.
According to prosecutors, Matanov spoke to Tamerlan twice and also visited him at his home in Cambridge. Four calls to Dzhokar “did not connect,” prosecutors wrote.
Thursday April 18
The next day, looking for the public’s help, the FBI released surveillance photos of the two suspects wearing backpacks on Boylston Street moment before the bombs went off.
Prosecutors claim Matanov “accessed them” on the FBI’s and CNN’s websites several times that evening and called Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at 8:16 p.m., but “again did not connect with him.”
Friday April 19
Matanov allegedly went back online overnight when the FBI issued additional photographs looking for the public’s help identifying the men with the backpacks.
“From approximately 2:33 a.m. to 2:35 a.m., Matanov accessed these photographs and stories about them and the bombing investigation on CNN’s and the FBI’s websites, using his laptop computer.”
One of the items that he allegedly viewed online was a photograph of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, who investigators say was killed by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev hours earlier during the manhunt.
“About five hours later, around 7:17 a.m., Matanov made a final call to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s cellphone that did not connect, at a time when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was still evading law enforcement.”
Federal investigators say by this point Matanov “understood that federal investigators were investigating the Tsarnaevs” and “would likely want to discuss with him his “friendship, contact, and communication with Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, especially in the week following the bombings, and any information and views he held related to terrorism and the Tsarnaevs.”
This is when authorities allege he “then tried to discourage and impede that investigation.”
THE ALLEGED COVER UP
“Early in the morning of Friday, April 19, Matanov, visibly upset, woke up Witness 1. When Witness 1 asked Matanov why he appeared upset, Matanov answered that pictures of the bombers had been released and he knew the bombers. Matanov falsely told Witness 1 that he did not know whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev had any extremist views. Witness 1 suggested that Matanov contact local authorities or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, rather than wait for them to come for him as a suspect,” prosecutors wrote in the indictment.
Matanov picked up a taxicab client just before 7 a.m. and told him as they listened to the news on the radio that he knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Prosecutors say Matanov also made his final call to Dzhokhar’s cellphone during this ride.
Later that morning, a witness claimed Matanov told him Tamerlan was dead and asked him to take some of Matanov’s cellphones because “they were illegal and might be found if the FBI searched his apartment, “ the indictment claims. But the witness refused to take the phones.
Matanov then picked up the taxicab client again and during that ride, prosecutors allege Matanov “wondered whether he should go to the police.”
Matanov and the client went to the Braintree Police Department, where he told police he knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Matanov was interviewed and allegedly lied about what he knew.
Prosecutors claim he “told the detective that he had not seen the photographs of the Tsarnaev brothers released by the FBI the previous night.” They say he also misled officers about his relationship with Tamerlan.
“At the end of the interview, in a discussion of whether Matanov should contact the FBI himself, Matanov said that his information would not assist the FBI in conducting their investigation, which he knew, he said, because he had studied law,” the indictment stated.
“The detective nevertheless told Matanov that the FBI might still want to talk to him, and Matanov agreed to talk with the FBI.”
Around noon, authorities claim Matanov asked “witness 1” to take his cellphones and delete evidence from his computer, but the witness refused.
Matanov then allegedly deleted the information himself, but the FBI was later able to restore some of it.
“By deleting his Internet cache and other files, Manatov obstructed the FBI’s determination of his Internet activity during the night of April 18 and the day of April 19, 2013,” prosecutors wrote.
Saturday April 20
On Saturday, Manatov spoke with federal investigators several times, but allegedly continued the cover up about what he knew and when he knew it.
The indictment claims Manatov continued to lie and mislead them in more interviews on April 24, May 3, May 31 and July 8, 2013.
“It is alleged that, after the release of the photos of the suspected bombers in the late afternoon of Thursday, April 18, 2013, and again early in the morning of Friday, April 19, 2013, Matanov realized that the FBI would likely want to talk with him because of his ties to the bombers, especially in the week following the bombings,” United States Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement.
“Matanov allegedly then took a series of steps to impede the FBI’s investigation into the extent of his friendship, contact, and communication with the suspected bombers, and the fact that he shared the suspected bombers’ philosophical justification for violence. “
“In addition to deleting information from his computer, Matanov made a number of false statements to federal investigators. The indictment does not charge Matanov with participating in the Marathon bombings or knowing about them ahead of time,” Ortiz said.
WBZ-TV’s Sera Congi reports
WBZ-TV’s Lauren Leamanczyk reports
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Watch: Ed Davis talks to WBZ about indictment:
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mark Katic reports