Marathon Suspect's Friend Renews Bid To Move Trial

A college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Monday renewed his request to move his trial, arguing that he cannot receive a fair trial in Boston.

Robel Phillipos, who is charged with lying to authorities, is scheduled to go on trial in U.S. District Court next week. His lawyers filed a change-of-venue motion Monday asking that his federal trial be moved to Springfield; Providence, Rhode Island; or Portland, Maine.

A judge had rejected an earlier motion to move the trial.

Phillipos, 21, of Cambridge, is charged with lying to investigators about being in Tsarnaev's dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth several days after the bombing, when two other Tsarnaev friends removed a backpack, laptop computer and other evidence. Azamat Tazhayakov was convicted by a jury of conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges in July, while Dias Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty to identical charges last month.

Lawyers for Phillipos argue that intense media coverage of the attack has made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial in Boston.

"The marathon bombing has been the subject of extensive pretrial publicity, which has saturated the Boston and Massachusetts media markets. ... These media accounts go beyond mere factual descriptions and include constant references to Mr. Phillipos as a friend and assumed ally of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev," attorneys Derege Demissie and Susan Church argue in their motion.

Prosecutors did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Twin bombs placed near the finish line of the 2013 marathon killed three people and injured more than 260. Tsarnaev is scheduled to go on trial in November on 30 federal charges and could face the death penalty if convicted. He also wants his trial moved.

If U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock rejects Phillipos' request to move the trial, his lawyers want extra questions to ask prospective jurors during jury selection and extra challenges to reject certain jurors "to ameliorate the prejudice caused by excessive pretrial publicity to the extent possible."


This article was originally published on September 22, 2014.


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