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Prosecutor: Friend Hindered Investigation To Help Marathon Bombing Suspect

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BOSTON (CBS/AP) – A federal prosecutor told jurors in an opening statement that a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev impeded the investigation into the bombing for one reason — to help Tsarnaev.

Azamat Tazhayakov is accused, along with his roommate, of removing a backpack, fireworks that had been emptied of their black powder and a laptop computer from Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth several days after the bombing.

Twin bombs placed near the finish line of the 2013 marathon killed three people and injured more than 260.

During opening statements at Tazhayakov’s trial Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann told the jury that the two friends “got rid of” the items after seeing photos and video of Tsarnaev released by the FBI. She said Tazhayakov chose to obstruct justice because of his close relationship with Tsarnaev.

Prosecutors say Tazhayakov and his roommate, Dias Kadyrbayev, took the backpack containing fireworks out of Tsarnaev’s room after they realized he was a suspect in the deadly attack. The backpack was found in a landfill a week later.

The prosecutor said Tazahayakov knew for eight hours who the bombers were but didn’t contact authorities and kept track of the manhunt for Tsarnaev from his apartment in New Bedford. She said Tazhayakov saw Tsarnaev at least three times between the marathon bombings and Tsarnaev’s capture.

Prosecutors presented text messages between Tsarnaev and Kadyrbayev from the night of  the Watertown shootout between police and the bombing suspects. In one of those text messages, the prosecutor said, Kadyrbayev asked “what’s wrong with you? Haha.”

Siegmann described conversations between Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev in their dorm room that she said proves they knew Tsarnaev was bomber. Prosecutors do not say Tazhayakov knew about the bombing plan but say that a month before the attack Tsarnaev told Tazhayakov he know how to make a bomb.

Tazahayakov’s lawyer, Nicholas Wooldridge, said his client’s roommate, Kadyrbayev, is the one who took Tsarnaev’s backpack and threw it away.

Tazhayakov contends he only went to Tsarnaev’s room to retrieve some marijuana.

Wooldridge urged the jury to consider the 19-year-old Tazahayakov’s state of mind, calling him a good kid who was not always responsible. The lawyer said Tazahayakov had no intent to help Tsarnaev.

Tazhayakov has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges.

WBZ legal analyst Harry Mannion says the big issue for the jury to decide is what did Tazhayakov intend to do the night of Tsarnaev’s capture.

Depending on what they believe, Tazhayakov could face up to 20 years in prison.

“The question is: Did this young man go in that door room with the idea of hindering a federal investigation into a heinous, heinous murder and maiming?,” Mannion said. “If he did, he deserves to go behind the wall and do some jail time.  And he will.”

Kadyrbayev goes to trial this fall on obstruction of justice charges.

Tsarnaev’s friend Robel Phillipos is charged with lying to authorities. That is the same crime Khairullozhon Matanov of Quincy, another friend of Tsarnaev, was arrested for this May.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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