A jury, in the first trial related to the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, found a 20-year-old University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student guilty Monday of obstructing an investigation into that crime.
The jurors in U.S. District Court said Azamat Tazhayakov was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence following the attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.
Prosecutors argued that Tazhayakov, who was a roommate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the time of the bombing, helped remove evidence from their off-campus dorm room.
Tsarnaev is alleged to have perpetrated the bombing with his brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed during a police chase after the bombing.
“Before the FBI knew that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a suspect in that investigation, what did this defendant do? He went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room,” assistant United States attorney, John A. Capin, told jurors, according to The New York Times.
Capin said Tazhayakov and another friend — Dias Kadyrbayev, who will stand trial separately — removed a backpack containing fireworks and a laptop from the Tsarnaev’s room.
The two did so “to protect their friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, for one reason — because they had learned their friend was the marathon bomber,” said Stephanie Siegmann, another assistant United States attorney.
Tazhayakov’s defense attorney, Matthew Myers, called no witnesses of his own during the trial but insisted during cross examination of the prosecution’s witnesses that his client was not an active participant in any conspiracy. He claimed that Kadyrbayev was the person who removed the items from Tsarnaev’s room.
“He’s not moving into action to obstruct — that’s fabricated,” Myers said during his closing argument. He warned jurors not to find his client guilty by association.
The Boston Globe reports the jury deliberated for 14 hours, over a period of three days, before finding Tazhayakov guilty of the charges related to the backpack, which investigators eventually found in a nearby landfill. The jurors acquitted him of charges related to the computer because it appeared there was no effort to hide or destroy the item.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz praised the efforts of the jury during a brief statement following the verdict.
“They took their jobs very seriously,” she said.
Sentencing for Tazhayakov is scheduled for Oct. 16. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
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