Tsarnaev friend Tazhayakov sentenced to 42 months for obstruction of justice

Azamat Tazhayakov (L) posed with Dias Kadyrbayev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (R) in an undated photo taken in New York.
Azamat Tazhayakov (L) posed with Dias Kadyrbayev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (R) in an undated photo taken in New York. –REUTERS

“I don’t support an extremist. I don’t support any Muslim radicalism. It makes me sick what he did on April 15,’’ Azamat Tazhayakov said through tears as he was sentenced today to 42 months behind bars. “I hope you deem the time I served as appropriate punishment. Thank you for a fair trial.’’

Tazhayakov, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s college friend, was sentenced today to three and a half years in prison for obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges. Tazhayakov was convicted last July after prosecutors said he and one other friend helped the marathon bombers by disposing of evidence.

Tazahayakov was accused of removing a backpack and laptop from Tsarnaev’s UMass Dartmouth dorm room when asked to in the days following the attacks. The bag contained fireworks and other evidence law enforcement needed, and was later recovered at a landfill.

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He could have faced up to 25 years behind bars, but today the prosecution asked that he only receive four.

The prosecutors said that Tazhayakov was more cooperative with the investigation than Dias Kadyrbayev, another one of Tsarnaev’s friends, who pleaded guilty last August in exchange for a shorter sentence.

Kadyrbayev was sentenced to six years behind bars earlier this week in connection with the backpack, laptop, and fireworks. The government said that they didn’t want to punish Tazhayakov for testifying.

A citizen of Kazakhstan, Tazahayakov pleaded not guilty to the charges last July. His legal team argued that Kadyrbayev was the mastermind behind destroying the evidence and that Tazhayakov only “attempted obstruction.’’ Jurors and Judge Douglas Woodlock didn’t agree.

“This was an ongoing investigation and there was obstruction,’’ Judge Woodlock said. “As far I am concerned this falls within the obstruction guidelines. It was serious and sustained.’’

Woodlock said that Tazahayakov was still “less culpable’’ than Kadyrbayev, who texted Tsarnaev within the hours of seeing he was wanted by Boston police, and who the defense said physically took the backpack, according to Tazahayakov. The only item Tazahayakov admitted to taking or touching was a pair of headphones.

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“At that moment I saw that one of my friends was an alleged bomber but I didn’t know if it was true or not,’’ he said in court.

On top of scrapping evidence, prosecutors said Tazahayakov never attempted to contact police about Tsarnaev’s involvement. Woodlock said that Tazhayakov, the son of oil executive Amir Ismagulov, had a stable family environment and “the wherewithal to know better.’’

Dic Donahue, the MBTA police officer who was shot in the manhunt for the Tsarnaevs, tweeted as the sentence was announced:

“Another one falls for 42 months. Justice.’’

Another one of Tsarnaev’s friends charged with obstruction, Robel Phillipos, is being sentenced at 2 pm today.

The friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

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