Boston bombing suspect's friend Azamat Tazhayakov found guilty of trying to destroy evidence

Tazhayakov agreed with another friend to get rid of a backpack and disabled backpack after receiving a text message from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Boston

A college friend has been convicted of trying to protect Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev by agreeing with another friend to get rid of a backpack and disabled fireworks they took from his dorm room three days after the attack.

Azamat Tazhayakov, a baby-faced 20-year-old, put his hands over his face and shook his head as guilty verdicts were read on federal charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy in the first trial stemming from the twin bombings, which killed three and injured more than 260 near the marathon's finish line in April 2013. His mother sobbed loudly and rocked in her seat.

The jury found that Tazhayakov conspired with friend Dias Kadyrbayev to take from Tsarnaev's room a backpack containing fireworks that had been emptied of their explosive powder. Prosecutors said the explosive powder could have been used to make bombs.

Prosecutors and defence lawyers both told the jury it was Kadyrbayev who actually threw the items away, but prosecutors said Tazhayakov agreed with the plan and was an active participant.

Juror Daniel Antonino, 49, said the panel heavily debated the charges but in the end believed Tazhayakov had impeded the investigation.

“They took materials from that room that they never should have touched, and that's what he is going to pay the price for,” Antonino said.

Tazhayakov faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence for obstruction and a five-year maximum for conspiracy at sentencing, which was scheduled for 16 October. The verdicts came less than three years after he arrived in the US from his native Kazakhstan, hoping to get an engineering degree at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

Prosecutors said Tazhayakov quickly became friends with Kadyrbayev, who was also from Kazakhstan, and the two also became friendly with Tsarnaev who, like them, spoke Russian. Tsarnaev, who lived in Kyrgyzstan and Russia, had come to the US as a child with his family. He turns 21 on Tuesday.

The three men often hung out together, in Tsarnaev's dorm room or at the off-campus apartment Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev shared. Friends testified that the three men enjoyed playing video games and smoking marijuana.

During the trial, prosecutors showed jurors video of Tazhayakov at the university gym with Tsarnaev the day after the bombings. Both appeared relaxed. Tazhayakov's lawyers said the footage showed their client had no idea Tsarnaev was involved in the bombings until days later, when the FBI released photos of him and his brother, Tamerlan, as suspects.

Tazhayakov's lawyers argued that it was Kadyrbayev who removed the items from Tsarnaev's dorm room and then threw them away. Kadyrbayev faces a separate trial in September. A third friend, Robel Phillipos, is charged with lying to investigators and is also scheduled for trial in September.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev escaped but was soon found, wounded and hiding in a boat dry-docked in a backyard in suburban Watertown. The backpack and fireworks were later recovered from a landfill.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in November. He faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

Defence attorney Matthew Myers called the Tazhayakov verdict “somewhat surprising” and said it was difficult to try the case in Boston, where emotions run high over the bombings. He said he believes jurors felt a “certain pressure” to find his client guilty.

“We understand what this town has been through. ... It's hard to overcome that bias,” Myers said.

Myers said lawyers will appeal the verdict, at least in part on a verdict form that asked jurors to decide whether Tazhayakov obstructed justice and conspired to obstruct justice on both a laptop computer that was taken from Tsarnaev's room and the backpack containing fireworks.

The jury found Tazhayakov not guilty of participating in the plan to take the laptop, but guilty on the plan to take the backpack and fireworks. They had to find him guilty of only one of them to convict him of the charge.

“We think it may have distracted the jury,” Myers said of the verdict form.

FBI agents testified during the trial that Tazhayakov told them he and Kadyrbayev decided to take the backpack, fireworks and Tsarnaev's computer hours after Kadyrbayev received a text message from Tsarnaev that said he could go to his dorm room and “take what's there.”

Myers told the jury his client was a naive college kid who was prosecuted because he was a “friend of the bomber.”

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Virtualisation / Cloud Infrastructure Engineer (VMware, Cloud)

£38000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Virt...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Android App Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises in the...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum