Friend of bombing suspect goes to court
BOSTON (AP) – A college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was due in federal court for a final hearing before his trial begins next week.
Robel Phillipos, 21, of Cambridge, is charged with lying to authorities investigating the bombing.
Prosecutors say he was in Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth several days after the attack, when two other friends decided to remove Tsarnaev’s backpack, laptop computer and other evidence.
Phillipos is accused of lying about being present when the items were removed.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin yesterday, but lawyers for Phillipos renewed their request to move the trial from Boston to Springfield, Providence, Rhode Island, or Portland, Maine. The defence says Phillipos can’t get a fair trial in Boston because of prejudicial pre-trial publicity.
Judge Douglas Woodlock was expected to discuss the change of venue motion and other topics during a final pre-trial hearing this afternoon.
Two other Tsarnaev friends were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges.
Lawyers for Phillipos say he cannot receive a fair trial in Boston, where he is described in media reports as a friend and “assumed ally” of Tsarnaev.
Phillipos and Tsarnaev were classmates at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School before becoming students at UMass-Dartmouth.
Twin bombs placed near the finish line of the 2013 marathon killed three people and injured more than 260. Tsarnaev is scheduled to go on trial in November and could face the death penalty if convicted. He also has asked to move his trial, preferably to Washington, D.C.