BOSTON — A college friend was convicted Monday 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, 20, 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 powder could have been used to make bombs.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers both told the jury it was Kadyrbayev who threw the items away, but prosecutors said Tazhayakov agreed with the plan and was an active participant. 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.
The jury found Tazhayakov not guilty of participating in the plan to take a laptop from Tsarnaev’s room, but guilty in the plan to take the backpack and fireworks. They had to find him guilty in only one of them to convict him of the charge.
Tazhayakov faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence for obstruction and a five-year maximum for conspiracy at sentencing, which is scheduled for Oct. 16. The verdicts came less than three years after he arrived in the United States from his native Kazakhstan, hoping to get an engineering degree at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.
Prosecutors said Tazhayakov quickly became friends with Kadyrbayev, who is also from Kazakhstan, and the two became friendly with Tsarnaev, who, like them, spoke Russian. Tsarnaev, who lived in Kyrgyzstan and Russia, had come to the United States 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.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the other suspect in the bombings, 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.