Three hours after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s photo was broadcast as the “Bomber 2” suspect, he exchanged a series of casual text messages with one of his closest friends from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, saying, “Sorry man I’m in Boston” when asked for a ride, and responding “Yea bro I did,” when asked “u saw the news?”
Some 300 text messages written or received by 20-year-old Dias Kadyrbayev — some translated from Russian — were made public in US District Court in Boston Thursday as part of a pretrial hearing in which the native of Kazakhstan alleges that federal agents improperly interrogated him, both before and after Tsarnaev’s capture on April 19, 2013. Kadyrbayev, who faces obstruction of justice charges, has asserted his statements about hiding some of Tsarnaev’s incriminating items should be suppressed prior to his trial.
One important finding related to Kadyrbayev’s case lies in these pages of text messages: As early as the morning of April 19 when federal agents were beginning to realize that Kadyrbayev and his roommate, Azamat Tazhayakov, were close friends of Tsarnaev, Kadyrbayev’s family allegedly had already contacted Kazakhstan’s Consulate General’s office in New York and begun to try to protect the young man.
Kadyrbayev’s defense attorney has portrayed his client as a naive foreign student who was defenseless against manipulative federal agents, and someone with limited English skills who never fully understood his legal rights to remain silent or demand a lawyer.
About 10 a.m. April 19, after saying he hadn’t slept all night, Kadyrbayev texted someone who appears to be his mother, called Mama Us, that “dad called the embassy.” Seconds later, he tells Mama Us that, “I talked to the embassy” and also “they say not to say anything.”
Those exchanges about the embassy were typed in Russian and later translated into English by FBI translators.
A top official from that consulate office, Yerlan Kubashev, arrived the next day to assist the two men when they were arrested, initially on visa violation charges, according to testimony Thursday.
A tiny portion of these pages of text messages were part of last year’s indictment of the two Kazakh students, as well as Robel Phillipos, another former UMass Dartmouth student whom Tsarnaev knew from Cambridge.
While Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face obstruction of justice charges with a maximum 20-year prison term if convicted, Phillipos faces a lesser charge of lying to investigators, which carries a maximum eight-year term if he is convicted.
This week’s hearing about suppressing evidence involves solely Kadyrbayev because he is the only one of the three who accepted the judge’s condition for such a hearing: that he take the stand — and submit to cross-examination — to explain the alleged improper actions by federal agents.
Kadyrbayev is not expected to testify for at least two more weeks. The hearing was temporarily suspended Thursday to accommodate the defense’s wish to have a language specialist testify before Kadyrbayev, and that specialist is not available until the end of this month.
One series of text exchanges goes to the heart of why Kadyrbayev is accused of obstructing the investigation. Around 8:45 p.m. on April 18, shortly after the FBI released photos of the suspected bombers, Kadyrbayev asks Tsarnaev, “u saw the news?” After acknowledging that he did, Tsarnaev said, “Better not text me my friend,” adding, “Lol.”
When Kadyrbayev replies, “u saw urself in there?” and added “ahaha” and then “hahaha,” Tsarnaev responds, “If yu want yu can go to my room and take what’s there.”
About 10 that night, Kadyrbayev sent a text to Phillipos, “come to Jahar’s!!”
The three friends were at the dorm room that night, and, according to the indictment, Kadyrbayev found Tsarnaev’s backpack, containing some manipulated fireworks, as well as his laptop.
He took these items, and they headed for the New Bedford apartment. There, Kadyrbayev, with Tazhayakov’s knowledge, allegedly threw the backpack in a dumpster.
Days later, after Kadybayev allegedly admitted to federal agents what he had done, federal agents found Tsarnaev’s backpack, along with the fireworks, in a landfill.
Tsarnaev and his late older brother, Tamerlan, allegedly planted the bombs that exploded on April 15, 2013, near the Boston Marathon finish line, killing three people and wounding more than 260.
After FBI broadcast the brothers’ photos on April 18, the brothers went on the run and allegedly killed an MIT police officer that night.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a violent confrontation with police, while the younger Tsarnaev was a fugitive for hours on April 19.
Before Tsarnaev was captured later that day hiding in a boat in a Watertown backyard, Kadyrbayev’s text messages seem to reveal a sense of panic and an awareness that federal agents were descending on his New Bedford apartment. Throughout the afternoon, some 60 armed law enforcement officers surrounded his apartment.
About 2:20 p.m., Kadyrbayev wrote in Russian to someone, who appears to be Tazhayakov, “and who is saying we are hiding?” and later tells Mama Us, “mother call the ambassador.”
Minutes later, he texted, “THE FBI IS HERE.”
In video below, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov are shown entering the State Police barracks on April 19, accompanied by FBI agents. Dias is shown wearing long pants and Azamat in short pants. Note: the hour shown is an hour behind actual time.
Tsarnaev friends escorted in police barracksPatricia Wen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misattributed a quote to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.