WASHINGTON, September 13 (RIA Novosti) – Two friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty in US federal court in Boston on Friday to charges they hindered the investigation into the April 15 attack, US media reported.
A third friend was due in court for arraignment later in the day.
Robel Phillipos, 19, was charged with two counts of lying to police, and Dias Kadyrbayev, 19, a citizen of Kazakhstan, was charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice for allegedly removing Tsarnaev’s laptop computer and a backpack filled with fireworks from his college dorm room and trying to dispose of them after learning that Tsarnaev was a suspect in the bombing.
Kadyrbayev faces up to 25 years in prison and possible deportation, while Phillipos faces up to 16 years in prison.
A third friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, 19, also from Kazakhstan, was scheduled to be in court Friday to face similar charges as Kadyrbayev.
All three men went to college with Tsarnaev at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, but none of them is suspected of taking part in the actual bombings.
An attorney for Kadyrbayev, Robert Stahl, said his client was “shocked and horrified” by the bombings and had “no intent” to obstruct justice, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
"I'm saying he didn't dispose of evidence, didn't understand it was evidence, and the rest will come out at trial," Stahl said after the arraignment, according to the AP.
Both Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev had already pleaded not guilty last month, but had to appear in court on Friday and enter pleas again in order to combine their cases with Phillipos’ case.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, and his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, ethnic Chechens, are accused of killing three people and injuring more than 260 others with a pair of pressure-cooker bombs placed near the finish line of the marathon.
Prosecutors say the two brothers also killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) police officer several days later, before engaging in a gun battle with police in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Tamerlan was killed during the shootout and Dzhokhar escaped, before being taken into custody on April 19.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is awaiting trial after pleading not guilty to charges of killing four people and using a weapon of mass destruction, he faces the death penalty.