With the mother of the 19-year-old Cambridge man looking on, a federal magistrate judge today ordered Robel Phillipos released on bail while awaiting trial on a charge that he lied to federal agents investigating the Boston Marathon terror bomb attacks.
Phillipos was arrested by federal authorities last week, along with two men from Kazakhstan, as investigators continued to probe the movements of suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Phillipos and the two Kazakh men were friends with Tsarnaev at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Phillipos appeared before US Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler this afternoon wearing the bright orange jumper of a pretrial detainee from the Essex County sheriff’s department, and appeared calmer than when he first appeared in court last week. At that time, he was wearing a blue-and-white-striped T-shirt, glanced anxiously around the courtroom and was admonished by Bowler at one point for not paying attention to her.
Bowler approved an agreement between US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office and Phillipos’s attorney, Derege B. Demissie, requiring Phillipos to be under home confinement at a home other than his own, wear a monitoring ankle bracelet, and post a secured bond worth $100,000.
Phillipos is accused of lying to federal agents when they questioned him about the disposal of items from Tsarnaev’s dorm room in the days after the April 15 bombings that killed three people and wounded more than 260.
Federal prosecutors said last week they wanted to detain Phillipos because they believed he posed a serious risk of flight, but they changed their strategy after a weekend of negotiations with Demissie, according to court records.
While supporting Phillipos’s release, federal prosecutors still held firm to their belief that the slightly built Phillipos violated federal law. “The government stands by its allegations and is confident it can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt,’’ Assistant US Attorney John A. Capin said.
The document also suggests that a quick resolution of the criminal charges could be in the offing. Both sides asked for a probable cause hearing to be changed to May 16 so they can “confer about how this matter should proceed.’’
In court documents filed Saturday, Phillipos’s lawyers and supporters said he was the only son of Genet Bekele, a domestic violence specialist who moved to the state in 1981 and has since earned three college degrees: an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northeastern University, and a master’s degree in social work from Boston University.
According to the defense filing, Phillipos is bilingual in Amharic and English but is fully integrated into American life, having been raised here. In affidavits, friends and his attorney described Phillipos as a conscientious and civic-minded man who was “frightened and confused’’ when questioned about Tsarnaev after the bombings.
In court today, Bowler acknowledged supportive comments filed with the court this weekend by Phillipos’ backers, but she also noted that most of those filing paperwork were familiar with his mother, not Phillipos himself.
“The individuals do not have much involvement with the defendant at all,’’ she said.
The two Kazakh men, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, were also charged last week with conspiring to obstruct justice for allegedly taking a backpack, emptied-out fireworks, and other items from Tsarnaev’s dorm room that night. The three friends then returned to the Kazakh men’s off-campus apartment in New Bedford.