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Imprisoned college friends of accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to seek relocation of trial

By Reuters
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 8:13 EDT
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A picture released by the FBI of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (AFP)
 
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Lawyers for three friends of the accused Boston Marathon bomber charged with hampering the investigation into the deadly 2013 blasts are due in court on Tuesday to ask a judge to dismiss the charges or move their upcoming trial out of town.

Attorneys for the three men, college friends of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are also expected to argue that some of the charges against their clients are too vague and to seek to forbid prosecutors to read some of their early statements to police at the trial, set to begin in June.

Their attorneys have argued that the intense publicity surrounding the April 15, 2013, blasts that killed three people and injured 264 and the upcoming trial of Tsarnaev, the surviving member of a pair of ethnic Chechen brothers also accused of shooting dead a police officer, will make it all but impossible to find an impartial jury to hear the case at U.S. District Court in Boston.

Federal prosecutors contend that three men, Kazakh exchange students Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov and Cambridge, Massachusetts, resident Robel Phillipos, went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room three days after the attack and removed a backpack and laptop computer as police were searching for the suspected bomber.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, which carry the penalty of up to 25 years in prison, while Phillipos faces a less serious charge of lying to investigators, which carries a possible 16-year sentence.

The Kazakhs have been held in federal custody on immigration violations since their arrest days after the attack. Phillipos is out on bail.

The three may be present in court on Tuesday to testify about whether statements they made to police after their arrests were made voluntarily, according to court filings. If they appear, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov will be permitted to wear civilian clothes rather than prison jumpsuits, U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock ruled over the weekend.

Their lawyers have also asked Woodlock to strike references to “terrorism,” from the charges noting that prosecutors have not contended that the three played any role in the bombing attack.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now 20, is awaiting trial on charges linked to the bombing and faces the threat of execution if he is convicted. His older brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died in a gunbattle with police three days after the attack, while the pair was attempting to escape the city.

(Reporting by Scott Malone and G Crosse)

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