Two Friends of Accused Boston Marathon Bomber Charged With Obstruction

(Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

Two friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, accused of bombing the finish-line area at the Boston Marathon, have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of hindering the investigation into the attack.

Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both Kazakhstan nationals, were charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstructing justice, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz announced in Boston on Thursday.

The men were originally charged in a criminal complaint on May 1.

If convicted, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, both 19, face up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction of justice count and up to five years in prison on the conspiracy count, as well as a $250,000 fine. Both also face the possibility of being deported if convicted.

The two, who are currently in federal custody, went to the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth in 2011, as did Tsarnaev, 19. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov had entered the United States on student visas and were living in New Bedford, Mass., during the bombing on April 15.

Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded along the finish-line area on Boylston Street.

On the evening of April 18, the FBI released photographs and surveillance video of the two suspects, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as part of an intense manhunt that shut down the metropolitan Boston area. According to the indictment, after the release of the images, Kadyrbayev  received a text message from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev suggesting that he go to Tsarnaev’s college dormitory “room and take what’s there.”

Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and another person went to Tsarnaev’s dormitory room and removed several items, including Tsarnaev’s laptop computer and a backpack. Later that night, Kadyrbayev, with Tazhayakov’s “knowledge and agreement,” placed Tsarnaev’s backpack, which contained fireworks, in a garbage bag and put it in a dumpster outside their apartment.

In the statement announcing the indictment, prosecutors referred to a third person, whom they did not identify.

However, the person is Robel Phillipos, who has been accused of lying to FBI agents investigating the aftermath of the bombing. Phillipos has not been indicted, and court papers filed Thursday indicated his attorney and the government were in negotiations to deal with his case.

Phillipos is under home confinement and must wear an electronic bracelet.