Friend of alleged Boston bomber convicted

A college friend of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted Tuesday of making false statements to federal investigators in the aftermath of the deadly 2013 blast, which injured hundreds of runners. 

Robel Phillipos, 21, of Cambridge, Mass., admitted to lying to members the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, becoming the third of Tsarnaev’s friends to be found guilty of attempting to conceal the suspect’s alleged role in the bombing. 

Phillipos was found to have repeatedly lied to investigators, when he denied seeing another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, remove a backpack containing fireworks from Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

“In retrospect, I should have notified the Police once I knew Jahar was the bomber,” Phillipos, referring to Tsarnaev, said in a signed statement to the court. “Further, I should have turned over the backpack to the authorities.” 

A federal jury in Boston returned a conviction in the case Tuesday, following an eight-day trial. Phillipos faces as much as eight years in prison for each of two false statement counts, as well as three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 for each charge, according to the Justice Department. 

However, considering his expression of remorse, Phillipos could face a much more lenient punishment when he is sentenced in January. 

Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in August after admitting to removing evidence from Tsarnaev’s dorm room and discarding Tsarnaev’s backpack with fireworks, some of which appeared to have been emptied of their explosive powder, in a garbage dumpster.

A month earlier, Azamat Tazhayakov was found guilty by a federal jury in Boston on obstruction of justice charges for similar behavior. 

Phillipos lied about his knowledge of the case during five interviews with federal authorities, prosecutors said.

Following the conviction, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz lamented that "thousands of ordinary citizens" attempted to help identify the perpetrators of the bombing, which killed two women and a child. 

“Today, a federal jury concluded that Robel Phillipos did just the opposite," Ortiz said. "He lied to agents when he could have helped."

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 charges in the case. The Justice Department is seeking the death penalty against him.