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FBI Agent: Tsarnaev’s Friends Knew He Had Materials To Build Explosives

BOSTON — An FBI agent testified Thursday that friends of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev knew he had materials to build an explosive.

FBI agent Farbod Azad, testifying in the obstruction trial of Azamat Tazhayakov, said that Tazhayakov told him that when he and two other friends of Tsarnaev were in Tsarnaev’s dorm room hours before the shootout in Watertown, one of the friends found a container of Vaseline, held it up and mouthed the words, “he used this to make the bombs.”

Prosecutors charge Tazhayakov took a backpack belonging to Tsarnaev that contained fireworks and his laptop and interfered with the FBI’s investigation.

Tazhyakov says he’s innocent, and Thursday his attorneys tried to undermine the FBI agent’s testimony by getting him to admit he couldn’t recall key details about his interview with the defendant.

Earlier:

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  • furtive

    Harvey Silverglate, Esq Boston Globe 5-10-13:

    1. Members of the Jury should look skeptically at the accuracy of any FBI claim regarding what transpires in the bureau’s infamous witness interviews.

    2. The 302 report, which the interviewee does not normally see, becomes the official record of the exchange; any interviewee who contests its accuracy risks prosecution for lying to a federal official, a felony. And here is the key problem that throws the accuracy of all such statements and reports into doubt.

    3. In 2006 the FBI defended its no-electronic-recording policy in an internal memorandum, published in The New York Times.
    The memo attempts to defend the policy as logistically necessary, but since every cellphone today has sound recording capabilities, any “inconvenience” or “non-availability” justification for not recording is misleading.

    a. The more honest — and more terrifying — TRUTH for non-recording given in the memo reads as follows: “. . . perfectly lawful and acceptable interviewing techniques do not always come across in recorded fashion to lay persons as proper means of obtaining information from defendants. Initial resistance may be interpreted as involuntariness and misleading a defendant as to the quality of the evidence against him may appear to be unfair deceit.”

    In other words, When viewed in the light of day, recorded witness statements could appear to a reasonable jury of laypersons to have been COERSIVELY OR MISLEADINGLY obtained.

    b. if they deny they said what any 302 report claims they uttered, can then be indicted for making false statements.

    c. The FBI is able to put words into a witness or suspect’s mouth and coerce him to adopt the FBI’s version as his own. The FBI thus establishes the official version of what a witness said, and the pressure on the witness to adhere to the 302 version is enormous. Any deviation, after all, raises the question: “Were you lying during your FBI interview, or are you lying now?”

    4. Unlike the federal government, many states understand that unrecorded testimony must be viewed with skepticism in a fair judicial process. In Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court requires that a custodial interview be electronically recorded whenever possible. For unrecorded testimony to be admitted at trial, a judge must instruct the jury to be wary of police claims as to what the interviewee did and did not say.”

  • furtive

    Harvey Silverglate, Mass Lawyers Weekly, 1-24-13:

    1. “Since the mid-1980s, a proliferation of vague and overlapping federal criminal statutes has given federal prosecutors the ability to indict, and convict, virtually anyone unfortunate enough to come within their sights. And sentencing guidelines confer yet additional power on prosecutors, who have the discretion to pick and choose from statutes covering the same behavior.

    2. This dangerous state of affairs has resulted in countless miscarriages of justice, many of which aren’t recognized as such until long after unfairly incarcerated defendants have served “boxcar-length” sentences.”

    3. Such pressures help explain why fewer than 5 percent of federal criminal cases in Massachusetts are taken to jury trials, a phenomenon that has concerned U.S. District Court Judge William Young, who observed in Bertoff v. United States of America that “[e]vidence of sentencing disparity visited on those who exercise their Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury is today stark, brutal, and incontrovertible….”

    4. It seems never to have occurred to Ortiz, nor to the career prosecutors in her office in charge of the prosecution, that there is something wrong with overcharging, and then raising the ante, merely to wring a guilty plea to a dubious statute.

    5. Nor does it occur generally to federal prosecutors that there’s something wrong with bringing prosecutions so complex that they are guaranteed to bankrupt all but the wealthiest.

    6. These tactics have become so normal within the Department of Justice that few who operate within the bowels of this increasingly corrupt system can even see why it is corrupt.
    Even most journalists, who are supposedly there to tell truth to power, no longer see what’s wrong and even play cheerleader.

    7. The culture of the U.S. attorney’s office will continue undisturbed — unless the bar refuses to tolerate that the federal courthouse has become a place of torment rather than a palace of justice.

    8. The bar should be in the forefront of warning Congress, the news media and the public that the DOJ and the federal courts, in Boston and elsewhere, are out of control.”

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