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Boston Bombings: 3 UMass Students Charged

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on May 01, 2013 3:14 PM

Three UMass-Dartmouth students are facing federal charges for allegedly interfering with the Boston bombing investigation.

The men -- Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov, and Robel Phillipos, all 19 -- are friends of alleged bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an FBI special agent said in an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.

The three did not plan or help to carry out last month's deadly Boston Marathon bombing, Reuters reports. Instead, they're being charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements.

Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice

On the day investigators released photos of Tsarnaev and described him as a possible suspect in the Boston bombings, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev retrieved a backpack containing fireworks from Tsarnaev's dorm room, according to the complaint.

They later "collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble," the complaint states.

For doing so, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice.

A conspiracy charge is appropriate when two or more people agree to commit a crime and then take some action towards its completion.

The agreed-upon crime doesn't actually have to happen. It's the agreement to knowingly commit the crime that is actually a crime in and of itself. So in Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev's case, it's their alleged agreement to obstruct justice that led to charges.

Making False Statements

Prosecutors have also charged Tsarnaev's friend Robel Phillipos with making false statements to investigators. That's a federal crime if a person conceals a really important fact or says something untrue.

In Phillipos' case, he initially told FBI agents that he didn't remember going to Tsarnaev's dorm room and didn't remember anyone taking anything from the room, according to the FBI affidavit.

But Phillipos later confessed that he'd lied to the agents and signed a written statement that in reality, he and the two others went into Tsarnaev's room. Phillipos admitted that he saw the others remove the backpack from the room, but claims he lost track of the items because he took a two-hour nap.

At a Wednesday afternoon court hearing, a U.S. magistrate ordered the three UMass students into the custody of the federal Marshal Service, Reuters reports.

If convicted, Phillipos faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and $250,000 fine.

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