Boston, Massachusetts: USA
Innocents be dragged in: Young People's Guilt by Association
by Sis. Karin Friedemann
A foreign student from Kazakhstan, Azamat Tazhayakov, age 20, is facing 25 years in prison for "obstruction of justice" and lying to the FBI. Dzhokhar (Jahar) Tsarnaev texted a mutual friend, Dias Kadyrbayev around the same time as his photo was released to the public as a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, saying "If you want, you can go to my room and take what's there," followed by a blushing smiley face, which defense attorney Wooldridge said was a symbol that meant marijuana to the friends.
The UMass Dartmouth students are accused of going into Jahar's dorm room along with a third friend, Robel Philipos, taking Tsarnaev's laptop and disposing of Tsarnaev's backpack, which contained fireworks. The three friends are to be tried separately. Azamat's father, a wealthy oil man and local Khazak politician, insisted on a speedy trial even though the attorneys wanted more time to prepare, so Azamat's trial comes first.
"The government will prove to you that the defendant and his co-conspirator removed the backpack for one reason, and that reason was to protect their friend who they had just learned was one of the two suspected Marathon bombers," said US assistant attorney Stephanie Siegmann in her opening statement.
The first witness was Andrew Dwinells, Jahar's roommate, who testified that Dias showed him a text that said something about Jahar leaving the country and he won't be back so Dias can go ahead and take what he wants.
Andrew testified that he saw Dias go into a drawer and take a bag of pot while the other two watched TV. He testified that he did not see any of the friends take the backpack or the computer. He never saw Jahar with any pressure cooker, BBs, or bomb making material. He also said Jahar acted normally after the marathon. Andrew says he didn't think Jahar was a terrorist. Andrew testified that he and Jahar once discussed the theory that 9/11 was a government conspiracy.
The next witness was Alexa Guevara, another UMass Dartmouth student. She said her girlfriends called Azamat "Mama's Boy" because he was always the good one among the friends. She also testified that Jahar never said anything anti-American to her. Alexa's eyes teared up when testifying that she never thought Jahar could do anything like that. Even after the FBI released Jahar's picture she did not believe it.
FBI Agent Sara Wood next testified that Azamat had told her that Dias showed him a text from Jahar on the evening of April 18, 2013 saying that he did the bombing. However, the FBI has not been able to produce this text, despite their thorough investigation of the boys' cell phones and computers.
Defense attorney Myers aggressively questioned Wood as to why she looked at the prosecutor when answering whether Azamat said he or Dias took the backpack.
The defense also suggested that FBI agents did not allow Azamat to use the bathroom until he signed a waiver of his rights.
Dias' partner, Bayan Kumiskali gave testimony on video as a cooperating witness. "The black-haired beauty from Kazakhstan attended Babson College while Dias was at UMass with Tsarnaev," tweeted journalist Laurel J. Sweet.
Bayan said she didn't want any of that stuff that was taken from Jahar's dorm room. On 4/18, she was in the New Bedford apartment and Dias left for about 1.5 hours starting around 9:30pm. Dias told her he had Jahar's backpack in the privacy of the bedroom later that night. She was "mad" when she heard this and told him to "get it out of here."
"He hadn't thought this might be something." she said.
The most clear proof that the boys did not intend to obstruct justice is the fact that inside the backpack was Jahar's homework assignment. They were clearly not hiding evidence. As an engineering major, Jahar's roommate Andrew owned a lab kit, which contained wire, wire cutters, and other items. The kit was in plain sight on his bookcase on the 18th, but Dzhokhar's three friends did not take it.
Most likely, they literally took what they wanted from Jahar's room because they knew he wasn't coming back: a laptop, marijuana, fireworks, a thumb drive, a spiral notebook and a jar of Vaseline. Most likely they took the fireworks because they wanted them.
However, they didn't take all the fireworks. The FBI also admitted in testimony last week that more fireworks were found in the dorm room. FBI agent David McCollan testified that the fireworks were torn but some explosive powder remained. Even though fireworks are not an efficient source of bomb making material, one would think that if the fireworks were used to make a bomb they would be cut cleanly at the top and completely emptied out.
Neither Aza nor Dias threw away the computer. The thumb drive was found in the trash but if there was any incriminating evidence on it I'm sure we would have learned of it.
The most incriminating thing Azamat could come up with to say to the FBI about his friend was, "that Jahar had a 'little black gun' that shot pellets, and he once witnessed him shoot at a plastic bottle.