A federal judge set a June trial date Wednesday for three friends of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, paving the way for the trio to answer charges next summer of obstructing justice and lying to the FBI in the aftermath of the devastating blasts.
US District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock set a June 23 trial date during a session in federal court in Boston to review the status of the case against Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov, and Robel Phillipos.
Tazhayakov had requested a July 14 start date under his right to a speedy trial, even though lawyers for the other men and prosecutors agreed on a proposal to begin in January 2015.
Tazhayakov’s father, Amir Ismagulov, and defense attorney Arkady Bukh welcomed the faster schedule in remarks outside court.
“We feel that it’s a great victory for Boston to know the truth nine months earlier,” Ismagulov said in Russian, with Bukh translating. Bukh said Tazhayakov plans to testify in his own defense.
Also Wednesday, lawyers mentioned a female witness whose identity and statements are currently sealed.
Nicholas M. Wooldridge, another lawyer for Tazhayakov, said in court that she could provide “one of the central pieces” of a defense motion to suppress evidence. He said the witness saw “what was going on,” but he did not elaborate.
Prosecutors say Phillipos, who is charged with lying to investigators, gave conflicting accounts about visiting Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with his codefendants, days after the bombings killed three people and injured more than 260. All four men were students at the university at the time.
Authorities said Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev left with a backpack, fireworks, and other items later discovered in a New Bedford landfill. The two men are charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice for those alleged actions.
None of the defendants appeared in court Wednesday. They have pleaded not guilty.
Defense lawyers indicated they may file a number of pretrial motions including requests to move the proceedings elsewhere, dismiss the charges, and allow at least one defendant, Phillipos, to be tried separately.
Woodlock set deadlines of April 11 for motions to dismiss, April 18 for change of venue requests, and April 25 for motions to suppress and have a separate trial. Hearings on the various motions are scheduled to begin May 13.
Robert G. Stahl, a lawyer for Kadyrbayev, said outside court that his client may have to stand trial outside Massachusetts to receive a fair hearing.
“I think that is a motion that needs to be filed, but time will tell,” Stahl said.
Susan B. Church, a lawyer for Phillipos, said there is now “a compressed trial date,” and the next phase of reviewing evidence will “reveal a lot of information about the case.”
Tsarnaev, 20, has pleaded not guilty to several charges in a separate indictment that could bring the death penalty.