Three Students Charged for Helping Boston Bombing Suspect

Three friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are accused of obstructing justice after the fact by destroying evidence from his apartment. Here's how a sudden development in the case unfolded Wednesday.

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The Boston Police Department announced via Twitter late Wednesday morning that three new suspects—two students from Kazakstan and one United States citizen—have been placed under arrest in the Boston Marathon bombing case. The three men, all 19 years old, are identified as Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov, and Robel Phillipos. The trio appeared in court on Wednesday to face charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, after allegedly removing evidence from Tsarnaev's apartment while he was being hunted by the FBI. Here's how a sudden development in the case unfolded.

Update, 4:56 p.m. Eastern: According to, this is a picture of the third suspect, Robel Phillipos:

Update, 4:32 p.m. Eastern: "We are the ones who cooperated with [law enforcement]," said Robert Stahl, Kadyrbayev's lawyer, outside the courthouse late this afternoon, insisting that Kadyrbayev did not willingly aid Tsarnaev and that he did not know the "value" of what was in the discarded knapsack. And that's why Stahl says his client is pleading not guilty to the charges. Harlan Protass, Tazhayakov's lawyer, did not elaborate on the charges and, similar to Stahl, maintained his client's innocence in the case.

Update, 4:21 p.m. Eastern: According to The Boston Globethe FBI has said that the contents of the discarded backpack, allegedly thrown in the trash by Tsarnaev's friends, include: fireworks, jar of vaseline, and homework sheet. That's significant because, as CNN noted on air, vaseline can be used in making an explosive—you could see why Tsarnaev, or anyone under suspicion for explosive-making wouldn't want that, and fireworks, to be found in his/her possession.

Update, 3:57 p.m. Eastern: Phillipos, according to reports, was brought into court in handcuffs just after the other two friends were charged. Phillipos was read his Miranda rights, and will also be using a private attorney. His next hearing will be at 2 p.m. next Monday.

Phillipos is charged with lying to investigators during Boston Marathon Bombing investigation.Faces: 8 yrs in prison.$250k fine. #wbz

— Karen Anderson (@karenreports) May 1, 2013

Update, 3:46 p.m. Eastern: It appears that Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev will be waiving their rights to bailThe government was not seeking bail, telling the court that the two are flight risks. According to WCVB reporter Kelley Tuthill and WBZ-TV Karen Anderson, who were both inside the court room during a late afternoon bail hearing, both young men have private attorneys from out of state. The next court date will be May 14. We're awaiting statements from the lawyers. 

Two criminal complaints (which you can read below) allege that the three suspects conspired to get rid of a backpack belonging to Tsarnaev, after learning that he was a suspect in the bombings, "in order to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble." They later agreed to throw the backpack away. One of the men, Phillips, initially lied to investigators about removing the backpack, but all three have since admitted to their actions.

CBS News was the first to confirm the new break in the case shortly after 11:00 a.m. Eastern.  Boston Police insisted there is no current threat to public safety.

Jason Tuohey, an editor at The Boston Globe, reported that the three suspects are college students connected to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev through his school, UMass-Dartmouth, and CNN reports that they are in the custody of the FBICBS News also added that the three suspects will be charged crimes related to "harboring/aiding the bombing suspects after the fact" and there is no evidence that they had knowledge of the Boston Marathon attacks before they happened.

NBC's Pete Williams reported earlier that all three suspects were all roommates of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and may have removed items, possibly a backpack, from their dorm on his behalf. (According to the criminal complaint, only two of the suspects lived together, and none lived with Tsarnaev.) CNN's Susan Candiotti says the items removed from Tsarnaev's room included fireworks and a laptop. (Over the weekend, police searched a Boston-area landfill in search of a missing laptop and more explosives.) Two of the men were reportedly under surveillance by the FBI and immigration officials for several days, in part because they were believed to have violated the terms of their student visas.

(We've got more background information on the suspects, a look at how investigators typically deal with potential accomplices in terror cases, a timeline breaking down the criminal complaints, and a linguistic reading of the historic LOL therein.)

Earlier in the day, the two students who had previously been connected to Tsarnaev appeared at a court hearing regarding a possible violation of their student visa. The men, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both from Kazakhstan, were arrested more than a week ago on the charge that they had broken the terms of their immigration status and appeared at the hearing via video conference. One of the students' lawyers confirmed the two men are now suspects and will be charged in federal court later today, but they have already denied any wrong doing in the case. The third suspect, who is American, was arrested for the first time this morning, per Pete Williams.

Jake Tapper of CNN reported that the timing of the friends' actions will be key. Authorities claim in the complaint that the suspects removed and disposed of items, sometime between when the first pictures of the brothers were released by the FBI on Thursday, April 18 and the next morning, when their names were revealed to the public. According to a government source, the suspects claim they were not aware of the significance of their actions. We've got more on the suspicious timing of a profile photo deletion on the Facebook-style site here.

The suspects were interviewed by authorities on April 19 (four days after the bombing) and released the next morning, a Saturday. Later that day, immigration officials learned that the two men from Kazakhstan might be in the country illegally. Tazhayakov left school and returned to Kazakhstan in December, which terminated his student visa status. Yet, he was mistakenly allowed to return to the U.S. in January.

It is also believed that Kadyrbayev removed a photo of him and Tsarnaev from his social media page during that same window of time, while Tsarnaev was a wanted fugitive. According to CNN's sources, Kadyrbayev also reportedly lied on that social media account, saying he went to M.I.T. Ironically, authorities became interested in him as a suspect because they believed he was an engineering student at the prestigious school, making him a potential candidate for helping the brothers build their bombs.

The third suspect has been identified by the criminal complaint (and CBS News) as Robel Phillipos, a 19-year-old from Cambridge.

Here is the criminal complaint for Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov:

The complaint lays out all the details of the accusations and the accused, including the location of their dorm:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.