Metro

Judge appoints lawyer for Tsarnaev friend

Robel Phillipos, a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is charged with lying to investigators.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff/file 2013
Robel Phillipos, a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is charged with lying to investigators.

A federal magistrate judge agreed Thursday to appoint a taxpayer-funded lawyer for a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston Marathon terror bomber.

Robel Kidane Phillipos is charged in US District Court in Boston with lying to investigators in the bombing case.

US Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler agreed to appoint Derege Demissie to represent Phillipos, who knew Tsarnaev from Cambridge and attended the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth with him.

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Demissie had already been hired by Phillipos, but Bowler agreed to appoint him at taxpayer expense. Judges can appoint a lawyer for a defendant who proves he cannot afford one.

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Bowler would only appoint Demissie, but the lawyer and his law partner, Susan Church, said in a statement that they would both continue defending Phillipos, and that the appointment “is procedural matter that will not affect the vigorous and strong defense Mr. Phillipos will receive at trial.”

Phillipos and two other men, all students at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, were accused of misleading investigators in the weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings. Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev also allegedly discarded evidence: a computer and backpack containing fireworks. Phillipos allegedly lied about what he knew.

They have all pleaded not guilty. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, who are not US citizens, are being held without bail.

Tsarnaev, 20, faces multiple charges that carry the possibility of the death sentence for setting off the April 15 terror bombs that killed three people and injured more than 260. His brother, Tamerlan, allegedly joined him in the bombings. Tamerlan was later killed in a showdown with police in Watertown. The brothers also allegedly murdered an MIT police officer.

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is slated to go to trial in November.