Lawyers for a 19-year-old man charged with lying to federal investigators after the Boston Marathon bombings are asking a federal judge to release him from jail on Monday, saying he had “nothing to do” with last month’s deadly blasts.
“This case is about a frightened and confused 19 year old who was subjected to intense questioning and interrogation, without the benefit of counsel, and in the context of one of the worst attacks against the nation,” lawyers Derege Demissie and Susan Church said in court documents filed on behalf of Robel Phillipos on Saturday.
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“The weight of the federal government under such circumstances can have a devastatingly crushing effect on the ability of an adolescent to withstand the enormous pressure and respond rationally,” the lawyers said, The Boston Globe reports
Phillipos, of Cambridge, Mass., has a detention hearing on Monday in U.S. District Court in Boston. He was charged by federal investigators on Wednesday.
Authorities contend that Phillipos gave three different versions of events until finally admitting that he and two friends went to the dorm room of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, on April 18 — three days after the blasts killed three people and injured more than 264 others.
His lawyers said in the court documents that law-enforcement claims that Phillipos gave conflicting accounts was “refutable,” the Globe reports.
Also charged on Wednesday were Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, 19-year-old students from Kazakhstan. They were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice and with destroying evidence in the case.
They allegedly took a backpack and other items from Tsarnaev’s dorm room and dumped some of them in a trash bin near their off-campus apartment in New Bedford.
Of the three friends, Phillipos is facing the longest possible incarceration — up to eight years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, the Globe reports.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The three men are not accused of participating in the bombings, and their lawyers have said none had any idea that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombings.
The lawyers said in the court records that Phillipos was at the University of Massachusetts — Dartmouth, where all four men had studied, by coincidence on April 18.
At that time, the Globe reports, Phillipos had not talked to Tsarnaev or the others for more than two months.
“By sheer coincidence and bad luck, he was invited to attend a seminar on campus on April 18,” the night the three friends allegedly went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room, the court records say.
“As such, he did not have much to offer the authorities regarding the investigation of the suspect.”
Phillipos took a leave of absence from UMass Dartmouth in December and was seeking an internship at the time of his arrest, the Globe reports.
Tsarnaev is being held in a prison hospital outside Boston. He is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property, charges that could bring him the death penalty.
His brother, Tamerlan, 26, died of gunshot wounds and blunt trauma to his head and torso in an overnight shootout with police before his younger brother was arrested.
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