statements due in trial of friend of accused Boston bomber
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[October 06, 2014]
BOSTON (Reuters) - A college friend
of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect, charged with lying about a visit
to his dorm room three days after the deadly blasts, is set to go on
trial on Monday and faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted.
Robel Phillipos, a 21-year-old resident of Cambridge,
Massachusetts, is one of three people who prosecutors say went to
accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's room at the University of
Massachusetts at Dartmouth on April 18, 2013, and removed a backpack
containing empty fireworks shells.
The other two friends were Kazakh exchange students Azamat
Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev. Tazhayakov was found guilty of
obstruction of justice for taking the backpack and tossing it into a
dumpster, and Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty to the same charges.
Phillipos, a U.S. citizen, faces the lesser charge of lying to
investigators, which carries a prison sentence of up to 16 years.
The trial in U.S. District Court in Boston will open with statements
by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Prosecutors contend that he initially denied entering Tsarnaev's
dorm room hours after the FBI released photos of Tsarnaev and his
older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in a plea for the public's help in
identifying the pair who officials contend set off the two homemade
bombs that killed three people and injured more than 260 near the
Boston Marathon finish line.
Around the time of the visit to Tsarnaev's dorm room, the brothers
were preparing to flee Boston, and they shot dead a university
police officer in an unsuccessful attempt to steal his gun,
prosecutors say. Later that night, Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a
shootout with police.
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Phillipos, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are not charged with playing
any role in the bombing.
The surviving Tsarnaev, 21, faces the death penalty if convicted of
carrying out the bombing. His trial is set to begin in January.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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