BOSTON — Two friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty today to charges they hindered the investigation into the deadly attack.
Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge, was indicted last month on two counts of lying to authorities. His lawyers declined to comment after the brief arraignment today for him and fellow suspect Dias Kadyrbayev in U.S. District Court, but said in a statement that the indictment makes it clear that Phillipos “had nothing to do whatsoever with the Boston Marathon Bombing or destroying any evidence.”
“In the end, it will be clear that this prosecution should never have been brought in the first place,” attorneys Derege Demissie and Susan Church said in the statement.
The arraignment of a third friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, was scheduled for later today after his lawyer was delayed.
Authorities allege that Tsarnaev, 20, and his brother Tamerlan, 26, ethnic Chechens from Russia, planned and carried out twin bombings near the finish of the marathon on April 15. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a gunbattle with police as authorities closed in on the brothers several days after the bombings.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, both Kazakhstan nationals, are accused of destroying or concealing some of Tsarnaev’s belongings as he evaded authorities following the bombings. They are both charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The men became friends with Tsarnaev while they all attended the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.
Authorities have alleged that the friends were in Tsarnaev’s dorm room three days after the bombings when they all left with items including Tsarnaev’s laptop and a backpack containing fireworks. Phillipos is accused of lying to investigators during questioning.
Robert Stahl, an attorney for Kadyrbayev, said his client was “shocked and horrified” by the bombings and had “no intent” to obstruct justice.
“I’m saying he didn’t dispose of evidence, didn’t understand it was evidence, and the rest will come out at trial,” Stahl told reporters after the arraignment.
More than two dozen family members and friends attended the hearing to support Phillipos. During an argument for bail in May, his lawyer portrayed him as a frightened and confused young man who was subjected to intense interrogation during the investigation.
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