A close friend of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect was portrayed by prosecutors Tuesday as a party-loving foreign student who lied regularly, including giving professors essays lifted from the Internet and doctored to evade antiplagiarism software used by universities.
Dias Kadyrbayev, a 20-year-old native of Kazakhstan, told a federal judge on the last day of a pretrial hearing that he was not proud of his lack of moral backbone. When asked by prosecutors how he felt about another deception — paying a friend $100 to pose as a professor and to falsely assure his worried mother in person about his failing grades — Kadyrbayev looked grimmer than he had at any other time during his two days on the witness stand. “I’m ashamed,” he said in federal court in Boston.
The honesty of this former University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student is at issue because he now contends that he was manipulated into cooperating with federal agents when he allegedly confessed that he and his roommate had taken the backpack of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the night of April 18 and thrown it into a dumpster. The backpack, containing fireworks, was later recovered by federal agents in a nearby landfill.
Kadyrbayev has asked US District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock to suppress those admissions prior to his upcoming trial in September. The judge is not expected to rule on this issue until a week or so before the trial begins.
Kadyrbayev alleges that he was never made fully aware of his right to remain silent or to seek a lawyer to protect himself from what he now faces: obstruction of justice charges carrying a maximum 20-year prison term. He has testified that he signed forms about being administered his Miranda rights, but that he never fully understood them because of his limited command of English last year.
He acknowledged signing three “advice of rights” forms when questioned April 19 and 20 but portrayed FBI and Homeland Security Investigations agents as treating them as trivial matters. He said the agents fostered a kind of casual relationship with him that did not invite close scrutiny of the documents.
“Can you just sign it?” Kadyrbayev quoted agents as saying to him.
Video footage also shows that Kadyrbayev was forced to remain shirtless through hours of questioning, which his defense attorney has suggested was an act of intimidation by FBI agents.
Kadyrbayev’s defense attorney has depicted his client as perhaps impulsively and recklessly loyal to Tsarnaev, but not a hardened criminal deserving of such serious federal charges.
Prosecutors say Kadyrbayev, as well as two of his friends, needs to be held accountable for interfering with investigation of one of the most serious terrorist crimes on American soil.
They say Kadyrbayev’s allegation that he did not know his Miranda rights flies in the face of a recorded conversation he had with his girlfriend, after he was incarcerated, in which he admits he “wasn’t obligated” to sign consent forms.
Prosecutors also have shown text messages written by Kadyrbayev that reflect a reasonable ease with English. They also include a potentially telling message sent the night of April 18. Around 8:45 p.m., Tsarnaev texted Kadyrbayev saying: “If yu [sic] want yu [sic] can go to my room and take what’s there.”
Federal authorities allege that the text was an invitation by Tsarnaev to take the backpack, among other things, and that Kadyrbayev had an opportunity then to alert police to Tsarnaev’s role and save the bloody fallout of that night. That included the killing of an MIT police officer, allegedly by the Tsarnaev brothers, and the shootout with police in Watertown that injured numerous officers and ultimately took the life of Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan.
Kadyrbayev is not the only UMass Dartmouth student facing charges related to interfering with the investigation. His roommate, Azamat Tazhayakov, is also charged with obstruction of justice, and another friend, Robel Phillipos from Cambridge, is accused of lying to police. The trio are alleged to have entered Tsarnaev’s dorm room on April 18, though the two Kazakh students face stiffer charges because they are accused of playing a more active role in hiding the backpack.
The pretrial hearing on suppressing evidence involved only Kadyrbayev because he was the only one willing to take the stand to back up his affidavit outlining improper actions by agents. The judge said the affidavits, along with oral testimony, were required before he would approve a pretrial suppression hearing.