Agent: Friend said he hoped to ‘nail’ Boston bomb suspect

A former college student accused of lying to investigators after the Boston Marathon bombing told authorities 10 days following the attack that he wanted to help “nail” the prime suspect — his close friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, an FBI agent told a jury.

Robel Phillipos, 20, charged with lying about visiting Tsarnaev’s dorm room when evidence was removed, made the remark using an expletive during an interview on April 25, 2013, Timothy Quinn of the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified Wednesday in Boston federal court. Quinn said he didn’t believe him.

“Did you perceive the defendant to be sincere” in his anger at Tsarnaev, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Capin asked.

“No,” Quinn replied.

The bombing near the marathon finish line on April 15, 2013, killed three people and wounded 260. Tsarnaev, 21, faces a possible death sentence if a jury finds him guilty at a separate trial set to start in January. Phillipos was a fellow student of Tsarnaev’s at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Phillipos’s lawyer, Derege Demissie, told jurors in his opening statement that his client’s case will hinge on the argument that he smoked too much marijuana to remember the visit to the dorm. During that visit, three days after the terrorist attack, two other Tsarnaev friends removed a laptop and backpack holding incriminating items to protect him.

Lino Rosas, a friend of Phillipos who is now a college senior in New Jersey, told jurors Wednesday that he appeared stoned the night of the visit to Tsarnaev’s dorm. Rosas, who was also a student at the University of Massachusetts at the time, said he smoked marijuana with Phillipos that day.

“He seemed out of it. I would say high, or really gone, yes,” Rosas testified. “He just looked in a daze sitting there, no worries.”

Azamat Tazhayakov, one of the friends who went to the dorm and was convicted in July of obstructing justice, testified on Oct. 8 that Phillipos didn’t seem impaired during the visit. Tazhayakov, who hasn’t been sentenced, was called as a witness by prosecutors.

Phillipos has denied wrongdoing and claims a confession he signed was coerced.

Dias Kadyrbayev, the other friend who removed evidence from the dorm room, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. The three men, who were all close friends with Tsarnaev, aren’t accused of involvement in the bombing or knowing about it in advance.

The three visited Tsarnaev’s dorm after seeing his image on television, and before authorities knew his identity, prosecutors say.

Michael Delapena, an FBI agent, testified earlier that Phillipos confessed to witnessing the removal of evidence and admitted lying in earlier interviews. Phillipos said he regretted not calling the authorities and signed a typed confession, the agent said.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are citizens of Kazakhstan and were in the U.S. on student visas. Phillipos is a U.S. citizen.

Tsarnaev sought to justify the attacks as retribution for the killing of innocent Muslim civilians by the U.S., including in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to prosecutors.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers argue in court papers that the double bombing was masterminded by his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a shootout with police.

The case is U.S. v. Kadyrbayev, 13-cr-10238, and the Tsarnaev case is U.S. v. Tsarnaev, 13-cr-10200, both in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

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