A federal grand jury in Boston has charged Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both 19, with obstruction of justice in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are former classmates and friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Both men attended the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth with Tsarnaev in 2011.
Tsarnaev's classmates were arrested on May 1, and originally charged with "conspiracy to obstruct justice." They were accused of removing items from Tsarnaev's dorm room on the evening of April 18, 2013, after the FBI released photographs of the men suspected in the Boston bombings that left three dead and hundreds injured.
Kadyrbayev allegedly received a text message from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that asked him to go to his dorm room "and take what's there." Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov then removed a laptop, a backpack containing a thumb drive, fireworks and a jar of vaseline, and several other items from the suspect's room, according to the indictment.
Arkady Burk, the lawyer for Azamat Tazhayakov, told BuzzFeed that his client never touched the evidence. "He was never ordered to destroy anything. He never touched the backpack or the computer. This is an 18 or 19 year old boy, distraught, scared, who was at the wrong place at the wrong time." Burk claims that his client's friend received a message that said "I'm gone, take whatever you want" but he did not interpret it as a request to remove evidence. The Government's case is "very weak" according to Burk.
Tazhayakov's lawyer told BuzzFeed that "it is hard to say" whether or not his client knew that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whose room he was raiding, was also the Boston bomber.
If convicted, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, both from Kazakhstan, face up to 20 years in prison on obstruction of justice charges, and five years in prison on the conspiracy count, as well as fines of up to $250,000 and the possibility of being deported. The arraignment is set for August 13 at 2:00pm before Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler.
The District of Massachusetts Attorney's Office made the announcement on Twitter.