Text message history featured prominently in the obstruction of justice trial of Robel Phillipos, a friend of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, on its fourth day of testimony Tuesday.
Prosecutors say Phillipos, 21, lied to investigators about his whereabouts and what he saw on April 18, 2013, when he and two friends allegedly visited Tsarnaev’s dorm room and removed a backpack of evidence after the marathon bombings. Phillipos’s defense team contends that he was a scared 19-year-old at the time who was “high out of his mind’’ during interviews with investigators and could not remember clearly.
FBI agent James Scripture presented to the court on Tuesday analysis of Phillipos’s text messaging history from the days after the April 15 bombing. Scripture said that Phillipos and Tsarnaev sent a few texts to each other three days after the bombing. Later, on the night of April 18, Scripture testified that Phillipos sent Tsarnaev a text saying, “Where u at bird.’’ Tsarnaev did not respond.
On the morning of April 19, once the Tsarnaev brothers had been identified by officials as suspects, Phillipos allegedly texted a friend, “Are you hearing this [expletive] about Jahar?’’
Other texts, according to Scripture’s testimony, discussed his meetings with FBI investigators. Phillipos texted a friend that he had told the FBI he was “smoking on so many occasions that they just started to laugh.’’ He also described the interviews as “fun’’ in another text, and texted that the investigators were “pretty cool ass dudes,’’ according to Scripture’s testimony and text message analysis.
After a later interview, though, Phillipos’s tone changed. “They just scared the hell out of me,’’ he texted a friend.
Quan Le Phan, another of Phillipos’s friends, testified on Tuesday that Phillipos had smoked marijuana several times on the day prosecutors allege he went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room. Phillipos’ defense team said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was the marijuana supplier.
In a lighter moment, prosecutors asked Quan Le what a bong was, and he said he didn’t know how to describe it. That brought out a laugh from jurors.
The trial will continue Wednesday morning, and the prosecution has one more witness to call to the stand.
Phillipos is the third friend of Tsarnaev to face related charges. Azamat Tazhayakov was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges in July. Another Tsarnaev friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges in August. Both are due to be sentenced later this fall.
We followed the Phillipos trial as it happened in the Storify below.