Boston Marathon bombing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (second from right) stands with Azamat Tazhayakov (second from left) and Dias Kadyrbayev (center) in Times Square.
Supporters of Azamat Tazhayakov, Dias Kadyrbayev and Robel Phillipos were dismayed to discover on Tuesday, October 28, 2013 that the Federal courthouse had secretly switched the time of their status hearing to 11am and announced this only on their twitter feed at 10am. The court website as well as the paper schedule at the front desk of Moakley Courthouse stated that the hearing was at 2:30. Only the clerkâ€™s office, which is past the metal detector at the entrance, had the time crossed out with a pen and the correct time written in. Workers at the front desk said they were not aware of the change.
The result was that supporters and independent journalists sat in the hallway for hours, waiting to observe the hearing that they didnâ€™t realize already happened that morning. Only mainstream media outlets were informed. This was the second time switch for the status hearing that was originally to take place at 10am. Many people feel that these secret actions are serving to cover up something, to deny the boys human contact.
â€œI was upset and furious of why they did that. This was a last minute thing and it was intentionally as I felt it was because they were trying to block off supporters from knowing something. It was a smart move on their part how well they put that together. But then it will make us be more aware of next time,â€ complained Ana, a nursing student following the case who had driven many miles to be there.
Defendants Tazhayakov, Kadyrbayev and Phillipos were college dorm buddies of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, who is due back in court next week. The three are accused of throwing away fireworks, which Federal prosecutors claim constitutes disposing of evidence – even though prosecutors have yet to demonstrate that these fireworks were in any way connected to the bombing.
Oddly enough, on April 21, 2013 empty fireworks tubes were also discovered in a Watertown clothes donation bin. The Boston Herald reported that they couldnâ€™t have been left there by the bombing suspects. Planet Aid operations manager Michael Tambosi said the bin on Belmont Street in Watertown was last emptied at 5:20am Sunday â€” more than two full days after suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed by Watertown police. There has since been no police investigation. There has been no attempt by authorities to link the three friends to these fireworks either. Why are these particular fireworks not considered suspicious?
The Boston Globeâ€™s Milton Valencia reports that Nicholas Wooldridge, attorney for Azamat Tazhayakov, asked Judge Bowler to lift the court order that restricts what he can say publicly about the criminal proceedings. It unfairly allows federal prosecutors to decide what information is made public while preventing defense attorneys from commenting publicly on or disseminating evidence. The protective order says defense attorneys may only share evidence with immediate family members.
â€œThe government has been the only ones who have been able to comment on this, theyâ€™re the only ones who have been able to create a public record,â€ Wooldridge said. â€œThe defendants have basically been muzzled.â€
Wooldridge argued that the protective order even prevents defense lawyers from commenting on whatâ€™s already on the public record.
The order also hides most court documents from the public.
Wooldridge said the protective order should be lifted now that his client has been indicted. All three pleaded not guilty to the accusations of impeding FBI investigation.
Assistant US Attorney John Capin argued that â€œthe protective order is properly in place,â€ and noted that court rules prohibit attorneys from commenting on ongoing proceedings. He said the order is needed to protect Tsarnaevâ€™s friends from adverse pretrial publicity.
This claim does not make much logical sense, since the only information the public has are the government prosecutorsâ€™ unsubstantiated allegations in the indictment.
Wooldridge told Bowler he would not agree with any protective order, but attorneys for Tazhayakovâ€™s co-defendants are negotiating a new agreement with prosecutors that would keep the protective order in place while broadening the restrictions so that more of the defendantsâ€™ family members can have access to the evidence, reports Valencia.
According to the indictment, Tazhayakov had seen Tsarnaev with fireworks a month earlier when he and others set them off along the banks of the Charles River in Boston. Tsarnaevâ€™s friends initially assumed the fireworks to be â€œleft overâ€ from this incident, but panicked after seeing Tsarnaevâ€™s face on television and removed them â€œwithout thinking.â€
The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald both reported incidences of â€œkids playing with fireworksâ€ on March 12 and March 15, 2013. A local fire marshal had been called in over concerns that the â€œkidsâ€ had opened fireworks tubes and attempted to construct a larger type of explosive, to â€œget more bang for their buck.â€
Police Chief Walter Sweeney told news reporters, â€œEssentially, these appear to be from homemade fireworks and not firecrackers. It appears there is someone experimenting with fireworks although there is no intent to cause harm.â€
Tsarnaevâ€™s twitter feed clearly shows pictures of him and several friends in March playing with fireworks and having a great time. There were many other teenagers besides the three indicted friends of Tsarnaev who were also experimenting with the illegal fireworks.
â€œIf there was any suspicion that any of the incidents above were anything to do with bomb making activities and that Tsarnaevâ€™s friends were potentially complicit in such acts there would have been a lot more appearing in court,â€ claims investigative journalist blogger Baby Blake, who holds a degrees in Criminal Justice and Social Policy, MA Criminal Justice.
She states that the fact that the indictment against the boys â€œaccepts that they did not know fireworks would be present in Tsarnaevâ€™s room when they visited it and only noticed them after they had been there some time, really does lead to serious doubts over the validity of the prosecution case.â€
Kadyrbayevâ€™s lawyer, Robert Stahl, said after the hearing that his client did not understand what he had done. â€œThere was no criminal intent to obstruct justice, or to assist Dzhokhar in any way.â€
Likewise, attorneys for Phillipos stated he â€œhad nothing to do whatsoever with the Boston Marathon bombing or destroying any evidence afterwards … in the end, it will be clear that this prosecution should never have been brought in the first place.â€
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov had already been in police custody at the time of their arrest due to a â€œsuspicious license plate violationâ€ and authorities then held them on immigration grounds because their student visas had allegedly expired due to them missing classes.
They were arrested on April 19, 2013 and questioned by investigators for 48 hours before they finally confessed. Their statements were written for them by investigators, read back to them and they were asked to sign. When asked if they understood the gravity of the situation their only documented reply was â€œyes.â€
Attorney Wooldridge told reporters after Tuesdayâ€™s hearing that the governmentâ€™s case is weak because it is based on interviews conducted by FBI officials that were never recorded.
â€œIf the three friends are found not guilty of their alleged complicity in the marathon bombings… it must be accepted that they were simply playing with fireworks along with Tsarnaev himself, ergo the fireworks they disposed of could never of been used to construct the bomb that killed and injured so many,â€ concludes Blake.
Their next status hearing is scheduled for January 15, 2014. No time has been reported.