A federal judge called the allegation that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev betrayed the US because he took an oath to become a naturalized citizen “highly inappropriate’’ and said he would dismiss the allegations, The Boston Globe reports.
The judge said it was inappropriate to draw a distinction between naturalized citizens and native-born citizens.
“Only the former take an oath,’’ [US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr.] said.
The judge made the statements at a status conference this morning.
Federal prosecutors planned to cite Tsarnaev’s alleged betrayal of the US as a factor in seeking the death penalty. The judge agreed with the defense’s objections and said they would have plenty of other factors to cite.
Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, are accused of planting two bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line that killed three people and injured more than 260 on April 15, 2013. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces multiple charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty. The brothers also allegedly killed MIT Police Officer Sean M. Collier days after the bombings. Tamerlan Tsarnaev later died in a confrontation with police in Watertown.
The judge also issued a stern warning to prosecutors about current or former members of its team speaking to the media, the Associated Press reports.
The warning in court Wednesday came in response to interviews retired FBI agents gave around the April anniversary of the bombings that killed three people.
The judge declined to impose sanctions on prosecutors if such disclosures happen again, as Tsarnaev’s lawyers sought.
The defense also objected to the FBI’s monitoring of Tsarnaev’s prison meetings with his lawyers and family. The judge accepted a compromise, which would allow an assigned agent or federal official not related to the case to be present at such meetings, strictly for security.
The defense was expected to file a motion to move the trial out of Boston, but it was not discussed in today’s hearing.
According to NECN, Tsarnaev’s attorneys have until the end of the day to file such a motion.
The judge set the next status conference for August 10.