BOSTON — A U.S. jury on Tuesday found a college friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber guilty of lying to authorities in a terrorism investigation.
Robel Phillipos, 21, was charged with lying about having visited suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room three days after the 2013 attack, which killed three people and injured more than 260.
Phillipos showed no emotion as the verdict was read in federal court in Boston and said little to journalists as he walked to a waiting car.
He faces up to 16 years in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 29. Until then, Phillipos will remain under house arrest. Phillipos and two friends removed a backpack containing empty fireworks shells from the suspected bomber’s room.
Phillipos, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was on trial in Boston for two criminal counts of lying to investigators, one for saying he did not remember the visit and one for denying it. He later signed a written confession admitting to it, following an FBI interrogation.
Speaking to journalists after the verdict was read in court, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said her office is “really gratified with the jury’s verdict.” She said that while thousands of people helped authorities after the bombings, “Today a federal jury concluded that Robel Phillipos did just the opposite. He lied to agents when he could have helped. He concealed when he could have assisted.”
The jury found Phillipos guilty of lying in statements he made about visiting the dorm room and of lying about the taking of the backpack. However, the jury found Phillipos not guilty of making several other statements the government charged were false, including that he did not see anyone taking a backpack from the dorm room.
Speaking to journalists after the court hearing, defense attorney Derege Demissie cited those findings and noted the jury had deliberated since Oct. 21 before reaching its decision.
The jury “found him not guilty of very critical elements,” Demissie said. “By the length of deliberations you can guess that there were people who were divided. It could be a verdict of compromise.”
Demissie said his side plans to appeal the decision.
Phillipos’ attorneys had contended that their client was too intoxicated on marijuana the day of the visit to have a clear memory of his actions on April 18, 2013, and thus could not have lied.
Over seven days of testimony, a series of FBI agents testified that Phillipos gave conflicting statements about the visit to Tsarnaev’s room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth before signing a statement that he did go.
Of the two friends who accompanied him, both Kazakh exchange students, Azamat Tazhayakov was convicted in July and Dias Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty in August of removing a backpack from the room during a massive manhunt for the bomber.
Defense witnesses included Phillipos’ college and high school friends, who testified to his marijuana use, and former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, a family friend, who described Phillipos as having been confused during his FBI interviews.
Tsarnaev, 21, is awaiting trial on charges that carry the death penalty. His brother, who prosecutors said helped carry out the bombing, died after a shootout with police late on the night of April 18, 2013.
Additional reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston.