BOSTON (AP) — Lawyers for two friends of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects argued Monday that the friends have been unfairly targeted because of their relationships with the men accused of carrying out the deadly attack.
Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, a college friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and Khairullozhon Matanov, a Quincy cab driver who was a friend of Tsarnaev’s brother, Tamerlan, were in court for separate hearings on charges of impeding the investigation into the 2013 bombing.
Tazhayakov is accused of removing items from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth days after the bombing, while Matanov is accused for deleting files from his computer and lying to investigators.
Neither man is accused of participating in the attack or knowing about the bombings in advance.
With Tazhayakov’s trial set to begin next week, his lawyers said they were confident he will be acquitted. Attorney Matthew Meyers told reporters that prosecutors offered Tazhayakov a deal if he agreed to plead to reduced charges, but he rejected it.
“He’s confident,” Meyers said. “He knows he’s not guilty.”
Meyers would not disclose the terms of the plea offer. A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz would not confirm that a plea deal was offered.
Meyers said Tazhayakov should not be punished because of his friendship with Tsarnaev.
“Even the average juror in Boston will be shocked by the lack of evidence,” he said.
Nicholas Wooldridge, another lawyer representing Tazhayakov, said the defense is hopeful of finding an impartial jury, but he acknowledged it could be challenging because of the impact the bombing had in the Boston area.
“Even though this case is not the Boston Marathon bombing case, still people have a connection with that,” he said.
Authorities say the Tsarnaev brothers planted two pressure cooker bombs at the marathon last year, killing three and wounding more than 260. Tamerlan died following a shootout with police several days later. Dzhokhar is awaiting trial and faces the possibility of the death penalty.
The other Tsarnaev friend in court Monday, Matanov, is accused of lying when questioned about his relationship with the brothers.
A judge rejected a plea from Matanov’s lawyer, Edward Hayden, to release his client on bail as he awaits trial.
Hayden argued that Matanov, 23, who moved to the United States from Kyrgyzstan in 2010, went to police on his own the morning after the FBI released photos of the Tsarnaevs as suspects in the bombing. He identified the brothers and gave police their address and phone numbers.
Hayden, who initially did not make an argument for bail, said he has now found an apartment where Matanov can live, and is actively looking for a job for him. Matanov was fired from his job as a cab driver after he was indicted.
“This court has heard no evidence of how he obstructed this investigation or how he intended to obstruct this investigation,” Hayden argued.
He said the FBI knows Matanov “is just a hard-working guy driving that cab for about 15 to 18 hours per day.”
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Garland, in arguing against bail, said Matanov has sent money to friends and family around the world, making it possible that he could have a “soft landing” in another country if he decided to flee the United States.
“These are people who might want to take him in because they owe him some sort of a debt, even if it’s just a debt of friendship,” Garland said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler agreed with prosecutors that Matanov poses a flight risk and rejected his request to be released on bail.