Two college friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev plead "not guilty" of obstructing justice in federal court Tuesday afternoon. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, originally from Kazakhstan, are accused of removing crucial evidence from Tsarnaev's dorm room after his arrest, including a laptop, a backpack, and fireworks.
According to Boston's chief federal prosecutor, Carmen Ortiz, the two men received a text from Tsarnaev after he became a suspect — "if yu want yu can go to my room and take what’s there :-) but ight bro Salam aleikum.” — and allegedly removed bomb supplies, fireworks, and a laptop. Defense lawyers have pointed out that when investigators asked for the laptop, the boys handed it straight over.
The friends are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, and actually obstructing justice. Though they both plead not guilty, if convicted, they could face five years apiece for the first charge, and 20 years each for the second. Between them, they could cumulatively serve a half-century in prison.
The two were indicted by Carmen Ortiz, Boston's chief federal prosecutor, who was also behind the charges against webbie Aaron Schwartz. Given the degree of horror in regards to the Boston bombings — the biggest terrorism attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 — the pressure is on Ortiz to push for the maximum sentence. Given that the hearing is in Boston and their fates will be decided by justices of the city, there are already calls for the boys to receive maximum penalties.
Let’s also not lose sight of what really happened here. Two young and immature college students from Kazakhstan unfamiliar with the American criminal justice system allegedly exercised world-class bad judgment under the worst of possible scenarios. Lengthy prison terms just don’t “fairly represent” what they did. Such punishment would also be out of step with the efforts today by lawmakers and elected officials on both sides of the aisle to not only be “tough” but also “smart” on crime
A third friend of Tsarnaev's has been indicted for lying to investigators, although reports support that the man, Robel Philllipos, is working on striking a deal with prosecutors.