Boston Bombing Suspect's Friend Is Convicted On Obstruction Charges

A college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been convicted of impeding the investigation into the attack. Azamat Tazhayakov was found guilty Monday of obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In Boston today, a friend of the Marathon Bombing suspect was found guilty. He was charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The man is 20 years-old, a college friend of Jahar Tsarnaev. The friend was accused of helping to remove incriminating evidence from his dorm room following the bombings. And Pete Tovia Smith has our story.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Prosecutors say Azamat Tazhayakov went with two friends to Tsarnaev's dorm room and removed his laptop and his backpack containing fireworks emptied of their gunpowder and agreed with the plan to dispose of the backpack. They say Tazhayakov recognized the suspects as soon as authorities published their pictures, but didn't say anything until he was picked up and interrogated. Prosecutors also say it took a while to get Tazhayakov to share everything he knew. Prosecutors today expressed relief that the jury saw it their way. Defense attorneys expressed shock.

MATTHEW MYERS: It's a brutal day for all of us - difficult to try a case in this culture.

SMITH: Defense attorney Matthew Myers says he's already planning an appeal.

MYERS: It's very difficult to get a juror who is objective. We understand what this town has been through, it's just hard to put those things aside - the jurors under a certain pressure by the community to possibly render a certain verdict.

SMITH: Tazhayakov insisted that he had nothing to do with dumping the bag and didn't even know it was thrown out until after the fact, his attorneys casted him as a scared teenager who never intended to cover up any crime. But as Northeastern University law professor Daniel Medwed notes, the defense couldn't overcome the facts.

DANIEL MEDWED: There's very few innocent explanations for getting rid of the backpack. What was the reason for doing that besides protecting your friend from potential criminal consequences?

SMITH: Tazhayakov bowed his head in court as his mother wept loudly while jurors read their verdict - guilty of taking the backpack, though not guilty of taking the laptop. He faces a maximum of 25 years in prison, sentencing is set for October. Soon after, two other Tsarnaev friends are due to stand trial for allegedly being a part of the obstruction. Former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan says today's guilty verdict may impact those cases.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN: It could be the defendant feeling more anxious to consider some type of plea deal. At the same token, the government could say that they feel very confident and feel that it's not necessary to cut a deal.

SMITH: Tsarnaev himself is set to go to trial in November. Today's verdict may bolster efforts by Tsarnaev's defense team to get the case moved out of Boston. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston.

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