Friend of Accused Bomber Found Guilty Of Obstructing Justice

(Reuters) —

A U.S. jury on Monday found a friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber guilty of obstructing the investigation into the deadly blasts by removing a backpack containing fireworks shells from the suspect’s dorm room.

Kazakh exchange student Azamat Tazhayakov was convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice for going to suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s room three days after the April 15, 2013, attack and removing the backpack containing the empty fireworks shells.

The jury in the federal court trial found Tazhayakov not guilty of similar charges involving a laptop computer.

Juror Daniel Antonino told reporters outside the courthouse the jurors had concluded the men had taken the laptop “because it was valuable, plain and simple,” and not to influence the investigation.

Tazhayakov’s mother broke down in tears when the verdict was read and left without speaking to reporters. Prosecutors charged that Tazhayakov, fellow Kazakh exchange student Dias Kadyrbayev and Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, removed evidence from Tsarnaev’s room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth after realizing their friend was a bombing suspect.

Tazhayakov could face up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction of justice count and up to five years on the conspiracy count. He will be sentenced on Oct. 16, U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock said.

Defense attorneys said they planned to appeal the verdict, which they said reflected high emotions in a city still reeling from the attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

“Trying a case in the middle of a bombed city, it’s very difficult to get a juror who’s objective,” said attorney Matthew Myers. “We understand what this town has been through.”

Kadyrbayev is awaiting trial on the same charges later this year, while Phillipos faces the lesser charge of lying to investigators.

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