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May 06. 2013 7:30PM

Friend of Boston bomb suspect to be released on bail

BOSTON - Robel Phillipos, a college friend of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who is accused of lying to federal investigators, was ordered released on bail into the custody of his mother.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler in Boston on Monday allowed Phillipos released under "strict house arrest." His mother, Genet Bekele, agreed to act as his third-party custodian. A $100,000 bond will be secured by a home put up by supporters, some of whom were in court.

Phillipos, 19, must also take a drug test before he is let out and be subject to later random testing, Bowler said. Phillipos, shackled and dressed in an orange prisoner's jumpsuit, told the judge he understood the terms of his bail.

Phillipos, who attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with Tsarnaev, 19, and two other students, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, were arrested May 1, about two weeks after the bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260.

Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, both from Kazakhstan, are accused of disposing of a backpack containing firework wrappers they found in Tsarnaev's dorm room on April 18, after the FBI released pictures of Dzhokhar and his brother, Tamerlan, 26.

Phillipos argued in court papers that he should be released on bail because he isn't a flight risk and hasn't been accused of disposing of evidence or aiding in the attack. Phillipos's bail agreement also calls for electronic monitoring, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in Boston said in a court filing.

Arkady Bukh, the new attorney for Tazhayakov, 19, said it's unlikely his client will be released on bail at a May 14 hearing in Boston federal court because he's in the country on a student visa from Kazakhstan and has no family in the U.S. Suspects with no local ties are often viewed as flight risks when seeking bail.

"We do anticipate quite a difficult bail situation," Bukh, of Brooklyn, N.Y., said in a phone interview Monday. Tazhayakov "was cooperating before the arrest and after the arrest, and is still willing and able to work further with the government. I don't think we have much disputes on the facts."

Bukh said he was hired because Tazhayakov's father, who traveled to the U.S., wanted his son to have a Russian-speaking lawyer. He also said the scheduled court hearing next week may be delayed. Bukh replaced Harlan Protass, who declined to comment on the change in legal representation.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face five-year prison terms if convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Both men were arrested on April 20 on immigration violations, the U.S. said. They are being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Middleton, Mass. Phillipos, a U.S. citizen, faces a maximum sentence of eight years in jail if convicted.

The government asked that a hearing on whether there is enough evidence against Phillipos for the case to move forward be held May 16.

"Phillipos is not charged with having any knowledge whatsoever of the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15, 2013, or with helping the surviving suspect after the incident," his attorney, Derege Demissie, said in a May 4 court filing. "Nor is there any allegation that Mr. Phillipos removed, tampered with, or destroyed any potential evidence after the bombing."

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested after a four-day manhunt in which his brother was killed and faces two capital counts of using a weapon of mass destruction. He's being held without bail at a federal prison medical facility in Devens, Mass., according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Phillipos, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov agreed to voluntary detention at their initial court appearance on May 1. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann said at that hearing that the government opposed bail for Phillipos because he's a flight risk.

Prosecutors said Phillipos lied in three interviews with investigators on April 19, 20 and 25. He first claimed to have been napping and watching television when the dorm-room visit took place, prosecutors said. He later said that he, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov had visited the dorm and left without entering the room because no one was there, according to the U.S.

In a fourth interview, on April 26, Phillipos confessed to the false statements and agreed to sign a statement about what actually happened, the government said. Details from his statement appear in the criminal complaint alongside slightly different versions of events supplied by Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov.

Prosecutors said Phillipos was the first of the three to recognize Tsarnaev in images of the bombing suspects after they were made public by the FBI around 5 p.m. on April 18.


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