BOSTON — Arriving in orange jumpsuits and smiling slightly at supporters, two friends of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty Tuesday in federal court in Boston to charges that they interfered with the April bombing investigation.
Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, two Kazakh nationals and college friends with Tsarnaev at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, were charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. If convicted, each could face as many as 25 years in prison.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov wore handcuffs and orange jumpsuits marked “Essex County” when they entered the courtroom. U.S. Marshals uncuffed them for the proceedings. They sat next to their attorneys at a table and faced Judge Marianne Bowler in an arraignment that took only about five minutes.
According to the indictment, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov removed a laptop and backpack from Tsarnaev’s dormitory room after they learned he was a suspect in the April 15 bombings that killed three and injured more than 260. The two allegedly were involved in discarding the backpack in the garbage outside their New Bedford, Mass. apartment.
The indictment asserts that the two saw that the backpack contained fireworks, which had been opened and manipulated, such that some of their explosive powder was visible.
They also saw a jar of Vaseline, which Kadyrbayev allegedly believed to be an ingredient in Tsarnaev’s homemade bomb. Kadyrbayev discussed disposing of the backpack and its contents, and Tazhayakov agreed, the indictments says.
In the courtroom, Tazhayakov had an entourage of family supporters, led by his father, an oil exporter in Kazakhstan who has been in the United States ever since his son was first charged in April. Also present were his mother, brother, sister and a cousin.
Kadyrbayev’s attorney Robert Stahl described him in a statement after the arraignment as “a law-abiding college student whose only crime was befriending a fellow student who spoke his more comfortable native language.”
He said Kadyrbayev and Tsarnaev’s other friends at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth were “shocked to learn that someone they knew was involved in this terrible bombing.”
“We look forward to the evidence eventually proving that Dias did not obstruct justice, nor knowingly or intentionally take evidence from Dzohkhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room,” Stahl said. “He and his family hope that the tragedy and sheer violence of the bombing will not blind justice; that the American justice system will prevail; and that his innocence will be proven at trial.”
Kadyrbayev, who is being held in jail on 24-hour lockdown, gave police the computer from Tsarnaev’s dorm room and told police where they could find the backpack with the packet of fireworks, Stahl said.
“Dias comes from a former Soviet-bloc region where police routinely are distrusted. Yet when authorities first approached him, he fully cooperated and for nearly 12 hours over two days Dias answered the FBI’s questions without an attorney or a Kazakh Consular official present.”
“The FBI recovered all of the items because of Dias’ complete cooperation with their investigation,” Stahl said
Contributing: Donna Leinwand Leger in Washington