BOSTON (AP) — A prosecutor told a jury Monday that a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lied repeatedly to the FBI during the investigation into the deadly attack, while the friend’s lawyer said he was a frightened 19-year-old whose memory was clouded by heavy marijuana use.
The two starkly different descriptions of Robel Phillipos were presented during opening statements at his federal trial. Phillipos is charged with lying to the FBI about being in suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm when two other friends removed Tsarnaev’s backpack and other potential evidence.READ MORE: Distraction Brewing Company, Local Artists Team Up To Support Charity
‘CREATED A FICTION’
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Capin told the jury that Phillipos “created a fiction” about his movements the night of April 18, 2013, three days after the bombing and hours after the FBI released photos of Tsarnaev and his brother as suspects in the deadly attack. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two bombs exploded near the marathon finish line.
Capin said Phillipos and two friends entered Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth after the photos were released. He said Phillipos saw the men remove the backpack and later said “Do what you have to do” when one of them said he thought he should get rid of it.
Capin said Phillipos told a string of lies to the FBI during several interviews until he finally confessed to being in Tsarnaev’s dorm room and seeing the men remove the backpack, which contained fireworks that had been emptied of their explosive powder.
“He understood the significance of seeing those in Tsarnaev’s dorm room,” Capin said.
Phillipos’ lawyer, Derege Demissie, held a wrapped package in front of the jury and said prosecutors were “attempting to present a neatly packaged case decorated with the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing.” He said Phillipos never told the FBI he didn’t go to Tsarnaev’s dorm room. “What he said was, ‘I don’t remember,'” Demissie said.
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Demissie said Phillipos had smoked marijuana numerous times during the day of April 18, 2013, and could not remember what he did that night. When FBI agents told him that other people had told them Phillipos was in Tsarnaev’s dorm room, Phillipos said, “Then I guess I was there.”
“He was so high, he could not remember,” Demissie said.
Tsarnaev is awaiting trial on 30 federal charges and could face the death penalty if convicted.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports
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