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, a baby-faced 20-year-old, 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 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 explosive powder could have been used to make bombs. The backpack and fireworks were later recovered from a landfill.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers both told the jury it was Kadyrbayev who actually threw the items away, but prosecutors said Tazhayakov agreed with the plan and was an active participant.
Juror Daniel Antonino, 49, said the panel heavily debated the charges but in the end believed Tazhayakov had impeded the investigation.
“They took materials from that room that they never should have touched, and that’s what he is going to pay the price for,” Antonino said.
Tazhayakov faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence for obstruction and a five-year maximum for conspiracy at sentencing, which was scheduled for Oct. 16. The verdicts came less than three years after he arrived in the U.S. from his native Kazakhstan, hoping to get an engineering degree at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
Prosecutors said Tazhayakov quickly became friends with Kadyrbayev, who was also from Kazakhstan, and the two also became friendly with Tsarnaev who, like them, spoke Russian. Tsarnaev, who lived in Kyrgyzstan and Russia, had come to the U.S. as a child with his family. He turns 21 on Tuesday.
The three men often hung out together, witnesses said.
Defense attorney Matthew Myers said lawyers will appeal the verdict.