By Donna Leinwand Leger, USA TODAY
A federal grand jury has charged two college friends of the alleged Boston Marathon bomber with obstructing the investigation into the April 15 attack that killed three people and injured scores of others.
Dias Kadyrbayev, 19, and Azamat Tazhayakov, 19, both citizens of Kazakhstan living in New Bedford, Mass., on student visas, were charged Thursday with conspiring to obstruct justice and obstructing justice with the intent to impede the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. The indictment replaces original charges filed May 1 against the friends. If convicted of both counts, the men could face up to 25 years in prison and deportation.
Prosecutors say Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and another friend retrieved alleged bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's backpack from his dorm room and tossed it in the trash after finding evidence that Tsarnaev had bomb-making material, including fireworks.
Tsarnaev, 19, pleaded not guilty on July 10 to 30 criminal counts that include using a weapon of mass destruction to commit murder.
Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov, Tsarnaev and another friend, Robel Phillipos, all began attending UMass-Dartmouth at the same time in 2011 and often hung out together, prosecutors say.
The indictment says on the evening of April 18, after the FBI made public photos of bombing suspects Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Kadyrbayev got a text message from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev inviting him to go to his dorm room and "take what's there."
Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov, and Phillipos went to Tsarnaev's dormitory room at Pine Dale Hall on University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth campus and removed Tsarnaev's laptop computer and a backpack containing fireworks around 10 p.m. that night, the indictment says. Kadyrbayev found that the fireworks containers had been opened, making the explosive powder visible, the indictment says. The men also found a jar of Vaseline that Kadyrbayev told the friends that he believed Tsarnaev used "to make bombs," the indictment says.
Phillipos, 19, was charged May 1 in a criminal complaint with lying to federal investigators. He will appear in court for a probable cause hearing on Aug. 12.
The friends took the items to their apartment in New Bedford, the indictment says. Later that night, Kadyrbayev put Tsarnaev's backpack, including the fireworks, a jar of Vaseline, a thumb drive and a homework sheet, in a garbage bag and dumped it in the trash outside the apartment, the indictment says.
Prosecutors say the friends watched news reports that identified Tsarnaev and his brother as the bombing suspects and then watched as a garbage truck came to their apartment and emptied the garbage bin containing the backpack on April 19.
More than 30 federal agents spent two days searching the landfill on April 25 and April 26 to find the backpack, the indictment says.