By Karin Friedemann, TMO
On June 4, TMO attended a bail hearing in front of Judge Marianne Bowler for Khairullozhan Matanov, 23. The young man, clad in orange, looked exhausted. He put his hands over his face, leaning on the table briefly before the hearing began. No friends or family were there.
â€œHe was shaking and looked like he had just finished crying,â€ described court observer, Jill, who attended his first hearing.
Matanov, a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is facing decades in prison for allegedly lying to the FBI and deleting files off his computer.
Matanovâ€™s â€œliesâ€ to the FBI were completely unrelated to the bombing. They included things like whether or not he drove the brothers to a restaurant or if they walked in, whether or not he ever watched movies on his computer, and if he had seen the photos of the brothers on TV or heard the the news on the radio, before he personally went to the police to identify them.
The FBI already knew who the brothers were. They had Tamerlanâ€™s house under surveillance. The photos were intended to ensnare friends of the Tsarnaevs into becoming informants. Matanov believed his friends were innocent and had nothing of interest to tell the FBI beyond that he liked to play soccer with them.
As a result, the government is now accusing Matanov of the absurd, including: â€œhiking up a New Hampshire mountain in order to train like, and praise the mujahideen.â€
Matanovâ€™s computer deletions were easily recovered by the authorities after he gave them permission to search his computer – â€œsaving them the time of having to get a search warrant,â€ Attorney Hayden quipped.
Yet prosecutors say Matanov â€œobstructed the FBIâ€™s investigation of the bombings and the suspected bombers, and have caused the FBI to expend considerable additional resources during its investigation of the bombings and the suspected bombers.â€
The files Matanov deleted were all public information that provided no additional clues whatsoever into the bombing. The FBI has been wasting ungodly amounts of money over the past year to spy on him. A large unmanned aircraft was spotted circling around his home. Several FBI agents were employed full time to follow him around in cars and to keep him in sight at all times around the clock, even following him into a dental office. Matanovâ€™s needless incarceration continues at taxpayer expense.
Former prosecutor Matt Connolly writes in the Milford Daily News: â€œMatanov was exercising his right not to incriminate himself… All he did was try to distance himself from the Tsarnaevs thinking that his close connection with them would get him into trouble. If you know nothing about the crime being investigated you canâ€™t obstruct it.â€
Actually, the government indictment, which claims that Matanov hid his close relationship with the Tsarnaevs from the FBI seriously conflicts with the actual transcripts of police and FBI interviews with the defendant. Matanovâ€™s lawyer made extensive use of these transcripts during the cross-examination of FBI Agent Timothy McElroy to demonstrate that Matanov immediately told the FBI everything he knew.
â€œI canâ€™t imagine that they did it but I am willing to help,â€ the transcript reads.
According to his first FBI interview report dated 4/20, Matanov said that he saw and called Tamerlan often. Tamerlan drove Matanov to get his drivers license. Matanov told the FBI he often invited the brothers to Manasawa Restaurant, went to Tamerlanâ€™s house, met his parents and skyped with Tamerlan when he went to Dagestan.
The indictment claims that Matanov told police detective Heslam he didnâ€™t know whether Tamerlan lived with his wife and daughter. However, Heslam never asked about this.
According to the actual transcript, Matanov told the FBI he saw no one in Tamerlanâ€™s apartment other than his wife and daughter.
The indictment accuses him of changing stories regarding whether or not he visited Tamerlan the Wednesday after the bombing. He admitted going to Tamerlanâ€™s house during his first FBI interview. He didnâ€™t withhold any information. The government allegation is referring to comments Matanov made to his roommate as well as a passenger in his taxicab, telling them he had not visited Tamerlan â€œin a whileâ€ and downplaying the relationship. He was not talking to the FBI. The FBI later talked to his roommate.
A Boston Globe editorial states, â€œMatanov charges look like a vindictive overreach.â€
The hearing mainly focused on wire transfers Matanov made overseas. He appears to have been working very hard as a taxi driver to send money to his family. He sent money to 15 people in 6 different countries, sometimes using an alias. He also asked a friend to dispose of some cell phones. His lawyer, Edward Hayden, argued that Matanov was operating an illegal business sending stolen cell phones overseas. Neither the phones nor the wire transfers had anything to do with terrorism.
FBI Agent McElroy testified that he has no knowledge of anything on phones having to do with terrorism.
US prosecutor Scott Garland argued against granting Matanov bail, saying he was a â€œhuge flight risk.â€ He speaks seven languages and has ties in six different countries. He has no reason to stay in the US – no family, no job, no property. He faces 20 years for obstruction of justice and eight years for each lie. He is likely to be deported after time served. â€œHis only assurance would be his promise,â€ and the US alleges that he â€œrepeatedly deceived authorities.â€
Defense attorney Hayden then requested â€œvoluntary incarcerationâ€ of his client, saying â€œthere is no place for him to go.â€ Judge Bowler said if this changes, they could â€œrevisit the issue.â€ She then asked if Matanov was ready to be arraigned.
As he stood to hear the charges read against him, Matanov gripped the table. He whimpered, â€œNot guiltyâ€ very quietly and was told to speak up. He repeated â€œNot guiltyâ€ to all the charges against him in a louder voice. The judge than warned Hayden to â€œbe cautious regarding public statements,â€ alluding to a previous press conference. Matanovâ€™s next hearing is scheduled for July 15 at 2pm. Matanov looked emotionally broken as US Marshalls shackled and handcuffed him.
Upon hearing the news of this â€œvoluntary incarceration,â€ Elena Teyer, mother-in-law of Ibrahim Todashev, the friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev who was murdered in his home in Florida by Aaron McFarlane, an FBI agent from Boston, was deeply moved. She immediately called Matanovâ€™s attorney to offer her home in Georgia. Teyer has never met Matanov nor the Tsnarnaevs but she told TMO, â€œWe are all family now.â€ Another supporter in Massachusetts also offered Matanov a home. Attorney Hayden said he would try to find out what the amount of bail would be.