BOSTON (AP) – Three friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will go on trial in June on charges they hindered the investigation into the attack, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
Attorneys for Dias Kadyrbayev and Robel Phillipos had asked that the trial not be held until January 2015. But a lawyer for a third friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, asked for an earlier trial.
U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock scheduled the trial for June 23.
Prosecutors allege that Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, both natives of Kazakhstan and friends who attended the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth with Tsarnaev, removed a laptop and backpack containing fireworks from Tsarnaev’s dorm room three days after the bombing. They have pleaded not guilty to charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Phillipos has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to authorities.
The April 15 bombings killed three people and injured more than 260.
Authorities allege that Tsarnaev, 20, and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, ethnic Chechans from Russia who had lived in Cambridge for about a decade, planted two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the marathon. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a gun battle with police four days after the bombings.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to a 30-count federal indictment charging him with using a weapon of mass destruction. Seventeen of the charges carry the possibility of the death penalty. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty by the end of this month.
Tsarnaev’s friends aren’t charged with helping to plan or participate in the bombings.
Kadyrbayev’s lawyer, Robert Stahl, has said his client did not dispose of any evidence and had “no intent” to obstruct justice.
In court Wednesday, Stahl pressed Woodlock for a later trial date, but the judge said he believes the attorneys for all three men can prepare their defense by June.
Outside court, Stahl told reporters he remains concerned that continuing media coverage on the charges against Tsarnaev could potentially affect the jury pool in his client’s case. He said he may ask to move the trial outside of Massachusetts but hasn’t made a final decision yet.
“I think that that is a motion that needs to be filed in a case like this, but time will tell,” Stahl said.
Lawyers for Phillipos have said he had nothing to do with the bombing or destroying any evidence, and charges should never have been brought against him.
In a motion filed Wednesday, lawyers for Tazhayakov cited his right to a speedy trial in asking for an earlier trial date. They said that his parents have relocated from Kazakhstan to Massachusetts to support their son and that waiting until next year to hold the trial would be an “onerous hardship” for the family.
Tazhayakov’s father, Amir Ismagulov, said through a translator that he is pleased the trial has been set for June so “the truth” can come out earlier.
“My son loved this city and this country,” he said through one of his attorneys, Arkady Bukh.
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