The White House says the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing will not be tried as an enemy combatant in a military tribunal.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be prosecuted in the federal court system.
He says President Barack Obama’s entire national security team supports the decision.
Federal prosecutors charged Tsarnaev on Monday with one count of using a weapon of mass destruction and one count of malicious destruction of property resulting in death, the Justice Department said in a statement.
The charges authorize penalties including death, life in prison, or a term in prison for any number of years.
Tsarnaev, who was seriously injured in a firefight with police before his Friday arrest, was charged in his hospital bed earlier on Monday.
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Tsarnaev is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Carney said that under U.S. law, American citizens cannot be tried in military commissions. Carney also said that since 9/11, the federal court system has been used to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists.
Tsarnaev, 19, and his older brother and suspected co-conspirator, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were born in southern Russia.
If convicted, Tsarnaev faces possible execution in the federal death chamber in Terre Haute, Ind., the same place Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was put to death.
“Thanks to the valor of state and local police, the dedication of federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, and the vigilance of members of the public, we’ve once again shown that those who target innocent Americans and attempt to terrorize our cities will not escape from justice,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said today in a statement. “We will hold those who are responsible for these heinous acts accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Tsarnaev agreed to voluntary detention, and a probable cause hearing was set for May 30, according to the case docket.
The April 15 marathon was shattered when two powerful bombs exploded about 10 seconds apart on a commercial stretch of Boylston Street. The blasts sent shrapnel ripping through spectators near the finish line. Three people were killed, and many of the injured lost limbs.
Investigators combed a mile-wide crime scene and scrutinized evidence from scores of video recordings and photographs to identify the suspect and his elder brother, Tamerlan, 26, who was later killed in a confrontation with police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was captured April 19 after a standoff with police, is hospitalized with serious wounds.
“This was a heinous and cowardly act,” President Barack Obama said the day after the attack. The bombing initially triggered suspicions of domestic terrorism, coming on the day taxes are due and near the anniversaries of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and 1993 assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. U.S. investigators are now focusing outward after it was revealed the brothers were immigrants of Chechen descent.
“We will determine what happened,” Obama said April 19, after Tsarnaev’s capture. “The wounded — some of whom now have to learn how to stand, walk, and live again — deserve answers.”
Federal Public Defender Miriam Conrad in Boston said on April 20 her office will represent Tsarnaev in the case, which is being prosecuted by Boston U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.
The blasts near Boston’s Copley Square occurred as thousands of runners were finishing the race. Among the dead was an 8-year-old from the Dorchester neighborhood, Martin Richard. The two others who died in the blasts were Krystle Campbell, 29, of Medford, Mass., and Lu Lingzi, a Chinese graduate student at Boston University.
Of the injured, many were hospitalized with lower-extremity wounds from bombs laden with pellets and nail-like shrapnel. At least 11 people underwent amputations, hospital officials said.
After the bombing, investigators found scraps of metal and fabric indicating the bombs were concealed in two heavy, dark bags, and that the explosives may have been contained in ordinary metal pressure-cookers packed with shrapnel to maximize casualties, techniques easily found on the Internet and popular with foreign terrorist groups, including al-Qaida.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said security footage had been taken from nearby businesses, while authorities asked spectators to turn over any photographs or videos of the event to help in the probe. Authorities subsequently found a piece of a circuit board and the lid of a cooker blown to a rooftop.
In the days after the attack, federal investigators released photos of two men taken near the scene. They showed one suspect wearing a black baseball-type cap, and the other wearing a white cap turned backwards.
On April 18, police converged on Boston’s northern suburbs following the killing of a M.I.T. police officer. As local authorities tracked down the suspects, a gun battle ensued, and at least one of the brothers tried to hurl explosive devices at police, according to a federal official.
During one exchange of gunfire, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ran over his older brother, officials said. With his brother dead, Dzhokhar managed to escape.
As police searched house to house, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asked all residents of Boston and several surrounding suburbs to stay inside with their doors locked. Public transit was shut down for the area.
The chase came to an end April 19 when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found hiding in a boat stowed in the back yard of a Watertown home. The homeowner noticed blood on the boat, lifted the cover and “saw a man covered in blood,” then immediately called police, said Davis, the police commissioner. FBI personnel were seen examining the boat again the following day.
Police and Tsarnaev exchanged gunfire at one point and a hostage negotiation team was called in, though the suspect “wasn’t communicative,” Davis said.
During the standoff, officials operated with caution out of concern that the suspect was wearing an explosive vest or had an improvised explosive device with him, said a federal official, who asked not to be identified due to the continuing investigation.
Police sent at least one helicopter that used a thermal camera to confirm he was moving beneath the boat cover, Davis said.
The dead brother had explosives strapped to his body when killed, according to two federal law enforcement officials. That increased concerns about the type of weaponry the younger Tsarnaev might be carrying, one official said.
Following his capture, Tsarnaev was hospitalized at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with gunshot wounds, authorities said. According to the medical center, Tsarnaev remains in serious condition, the FBI said.
At the Obama administration’s direction, police weren’t reading Tsarnaev the Miranda warning that gives suspects a chance to consult a lawyer before answering questions, according to a Justice Department official.
The administration invoked a public-safety exception that allows limited questioning. Statements from those interviews later can be entered into evidence, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the move wasn’t announced.
The exception, which stems from a 1984 Supreme Court case, would allow interrogators to push Tsarnaev on any training he received, associates, or other potential plots before filing charges, the official said.
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Authorities believe the two bombing suspects were acting alone and haven’t found connections to any groups or other suspects, said a person briefed on the investigation who asked not to be identified because it is a continuing probe.
The brothers are ethnic Chechens, said their uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an amateur boxer and a Muslim who trained at a gym in the Allston section of Brighton and told friends, “I’m very religious,” according to an account by Johannes Hirn, a freelance photographer who profiled him.
Two years ago, the FBI interviewed the older brother at the request of an unnamed foreign government “based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam” and preparing to join underground groups in that country, according to an agency statement. The interview and reviews of U.S. databases turned up no evidence of terror activity, the FBI said.
The Tsarnaev brothers and their two sisters moved to the Dagestan region of Russia in October 2001 from the central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan as refugees, and left for the United States in March 2002, said Emirmagomed Davudov, director of Gimnasium Number 1 in Dagestan, where Tamerlan went to the seventh grade and Dzhokhar to first grade.
The parents first received asylum and then filed for the children, who were given “derivative asylum status” and didn’t come through the refugee admissions program, though the legal standard is essentially the same, said a State Department official who asked not to be identified to discuss the case.
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