Robel Phillipos found guilty of lying to FBI * Robel was in bombing suspect's dorm as items were removed

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BOSTON —A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty Tuesday of lying to investigators about his actions in the days immediately following the attacks.

Robel Phillipos (Photo Credit:
Robel Phillipos
(Photo Credit:

Robel Phillipos, 21, of Cambridge, was convicted on two counts for lying about being in Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth while two other friends removed a backpack containing fireworks and other potential evidence several days after the April 15, 2013, attack. Two bombs placed near the marathon finish line killed three people and injured more than 260.
The jury returned with a verdict after five days of deliberations. Phillipos faces a maximum 16-year sentence. He will remain on a monitoring device until his sentencing, which is set for Jan. 29.
“This is a kid that was likely in the wrong place at the wrong time and didn’t do a very good job of choosing his friends,” said Boston College law professor Robert Bloom.
Liz Norden, the mother of two men who lost a leg in the bombings, reacted to the verdict, adding she felt sorry for Phillipos’ family.
“My boys have and they continue to tell me all the time to move on. For me, I just can’t. I have to watch everything, I want to know everything. I’ve been following it, I wanted to go,” Norden said. “I’m sad for the family, but I’m so pleased with the outcome as far as the job the prosecution’s been doing. It’s heartbreaking to see what their family is going through. Justice, I feel, is being served.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann said Phillipos repeatedly lied to FBI agents about what he did on the night of April 18, 2013, and dismissed the defense claim that Phillipos could not remember what he did because his memory was clouded by excessive marijuana use.
“First, ladies and gentlemen, there are some events that are so profound, so significant, that you cannot possibly forget them,” Siegmann told the jurors during closing arguments. “Would you ever conceivably forget that you went to the dorm room of someone that you believe murdered three people and maimed hundreds of others?”
But Phillipos’ attorney, Derege Demissie, rejected Siegmann’s arguments, saying Phillipos’ marijuana use made it impossible to remember many of his activities when he was questioned by the FBI. Demissie said Phillipos sat in Tsarnaev’s dorm room passively watching TV that night and never saw the backpack or the fireworks, nor did he see his friends remove the items.
Demissie repeatedly called Phillipos a “kid,” countering what he said was an attempt by prosecutors to depict him as a “criminal mastermind.”
“This criminal mastermind brought his cellphone and did not delete anything related to going to Dzhokhar’s room and handed the phone to the agent,” Demissie said. “It’s consistent with a kid who has nothing to hide.”
The jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon after receiving instructions on the law from U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock.
Phillipos attended high school in Cambridge with Tsarnaev and later the two attended UMass-Dartmouth together.
Prosecutors say Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, planted two pressure-cooker bombs near the marathon finish line. Investigators said the brothers also shot and killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer sitting in his cruiser as they tried to flee the area a few days later. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police in Watertown.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges and is scheduled to go on trial in January. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
In July, Azamat Tazhayakov was found guilty of charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for removing the backpack from the dorm room. Tazhayakov faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison when he is sentenced in October.

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