National News

May 6, 2013 12:28 PM by NBC News

Boston probe continues

(NBC News) A friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev charged with lying to investigators after the Boston Marathon bombings can be released from jail as long as the judge imposes strict conditions to make sure he shows up for future hearings, federal prosecutors said Monday.

In a joint court filing, prosecutors and defense lawyers proposed that the friend, Robel Phillipos, be confined to his home and ordered to wear an electronic monitor.

Phillipos' lawyers argued over the weekend that he is not a flight risk and that he had nothing to do with the marathon attack itself. They also said he had been "frightened and confused" under questioning from investigators.

Phillipos is one of three friends of Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the bombings, who were arrested last week after they were questioned about removing a backpack and fireworks from Tsarnaev's dorm room three days after the blasts.

Two Kazakh students, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, are charged with conspiring to destroy evidence. Phillipos, an American, is charged with lying to federal investigators. All knew Tsarnaev from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

In the court papers, lawyers described Phillipos as mild-mannered and peaceful, without a criminal record and with deep ties to his family, his church and the community in Cambridge, Mass.

The lawyers argued that Phillipos was questioned without a lawyer and made himself available to federal authorities at all times. The charge of lying has ruined what was a bright future, they said.

"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," the lawyers wrote.

The papers seek to distance Phillipos from the two Kazakhs and from Tsarnaev. Phillipos had taken a leave of absence for the spring semester and had not been in touch with the other three for more than two months, the lawyers argued.

It was only by "sheer coincidence and bad luck," the lawyers wrote, that Phillipos was invited to attend a campus seminar on April 18, the day the backpack and fireworks were removed from Tsarnaev's dorm room.

The lawyers also submitted 17 letters from people who know Phillipos, including his mother, attesting to his character. One was from a community soccer coach who said Phillipos was "very respectful" and excelled despite being the smallest player.

His mother, Genet Bekele, wrote that the family, which is of Ethiopian descent, looks forward to the marathon each year and cheers, on the sidelines or watching on television, as Ethiopians cross the finish line.

After the bombings, "We mourned for those who lost their lives and prayed for the injured," she wrote. "My son wants nothing more than the opportunity to clear his name."

Tsarnaev, 19, who is in a federal prison hospital in Massachusetts, has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and could face the death penalty. He was wounded in a firefight with police before he was captured April 19.

His brother, Tamerlan, was killed in the firefight. A funeral parlor in Worcester, Mass., accepted the body, but as of Sunday the Tsarnaev family had not found a cemetery willing to bury him.

Three people were killed and more than 200 injured when two bombs went off April 15 near the marathon finish line. Twelve people remained in Boston hospitals Sunday.

The One Fund Boston, which has raised more than $28 million for victims, plans to hold a town hall meeting in Boston on Monday to discuss plans for how the money will be distributed.

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