BOSTON (CBS/AP) – Jurors found Azamat Tazhayakov, friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, guilty on two of four counts of obstructing the investigation of the 2013 marathon attacks.
Azamat Tazhayakov was accused with another friend of removing items from Tsarnaev’s dorm room three days after the attack. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the 2013 marathon.
Prosecutors said Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev took Tsarnaev’s backpack containing fireworks that had been emptied of their explosive powder from Tsarnaev’s University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth dorm room hours after the FBI released images of Tsarnaev as a suspect.
Tazhayakov was found guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct in the removal of Tsarnaev’s backpack.
Tazhayakov’s lawyers contended it was Kadyrbayev who removed the items and later threw them away.
He was found not guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct regarding the taking of Tsarnaev’s laptop.
One juror told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones that Tazhayakov was convicted for dumping the backpack but not the laptop because they wanted the laptop for money, not to protect Tsarnaev.
Tazhayakov’s mother sobbed loudly and rocked in her seat as the jury announced the guilty verdicts, which it reached on the third day of deliberations.
Juror Daniel Antonino, 49, said the panel heavily debated the charges but followed the law carefully.
“They took materials from that room that they never should have touched, and that’s what he is going to pay the price for,” said Antonin, who works in sales in the health care industry.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said she was “gratified” at the verdict in the trial.
Tazhayakov’s attorney Matthew Myers, called it somewhat of a surprising verdict and “a brutal day for all of us.” He commented that in the “culture of a bombed city” it is tough to get an unbiased jury.
WBZ security analyst Ed Davis, who was Boston police chief at the time of Tazhayakov’s arrest, said there was “real evidence of the bombing” inside the backpack and the jury considered all the facts and circumstances. “They were very careful not to convict him on the computer incident so I think that shows that the jury’s thoughtful but there not buying that whole story that this is just an innocent act,” Davis said.
Davis said that what troubles him most is that Tazhayakov may have been able to save the life of MIT police officer Sean Collier if he had come forward with information. Collier was killed in the time between when the photos of the bombing suspects were released and Tazhayakov and others were taken into custody. “Had these young men who knew what was going on reported it, Sean would be alive today,” Davis said.
Prosecutors told the jury that both men shared in the decision to remove the items and get rid of them to protect Tsarnaev. Kadyrbayev faces a separate trial in September. A third friend, Robel Phillipos, is charged with lying to investigators.
During Tazhayakov’s trial, FBI agents testified that Tazhayakov told them he and Kadyrbayev decided to take the backpack, fireworks and Tsarnaev’s laptop computer hours after Kadyrbayev received a text message from Tsarnaev that said he could go to his dorm room and “take what’s there.” The items were removed hours after the FBI released photos and video of Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, and identified them as suspects in the bombing.
But Tazhayakov’s lawyer, Matthew Myers, said his client was a naive college kid who was prosecuted because he was a “friend of the bomber.” Myers said Tazhayakov and another friend, Robel Phillipos, sat passively watching a movie in Tsarnaev’s dorm room as Kadyrbayev took the backpack.
Prosecutors acknowledged that Kadyrbayev is the one who actually threw away the items taken from Tsarnaev’s room, but they said Tazhayakov agreed with the plan.
The backpack and fireworks were later recovered in a New Bedford landfill. Prosecutors said the fireworks had been emptied of their explosive powder — an ingredient that can be used to make bombs.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev escaped, but was found later that day, wounded and hiding in a boat parked in a backyard in nearby Watertown.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty in the bombing and is scheduled to stand trial in November. He faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.
Tazhayakov is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 16. He faces a five-year maximum for conspiracy and 20-year maximum for obstruction but likely will get a lot less under sentencing guidelines.
(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.)
MORE LOCAL NEWS FROM CBS BOSTON