A judge will allow federal prosecutors to describe to a jury what alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told a friend about his knowledge of assembling explosives when the friend’s trial begins next week.
The ruling from US District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock was issued Thursday in the case against Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, who is charged with obstructing the investigation into the April 15, 2013, blasts, which killed three people and wounded more than 260.
Tazhayakov allegedly helped remove items from Tsarnaev’s dorm room at UMass Dartmouth after the bombings. Tazhayakov has pleaded not guilty, and opening statements in his trial are slated for Monday. Two co-defendants charged with related offenses will be tried separately.
“The defendant [Tazhayakov] presses one objection to the demonstratives the government proposes to use during its opening statement,” Woodlock wrote on Thursday. “This concerns what Dzhokar Tsarnaev is said to have told the defendant about Tsarnaev’s knowledge regarding the making of a bomb. I find the government’s paraphrase in the demonstrative of the conversation between Tsarnaev and the defendant fairly reflects evidence admissible at trial.”
Woodlock did not specify what Tsarnaev allegedly told Tazhayakov or when, and a spokeswoman for US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz had no comment on Friday.
According to court records, Tazhayakov told FBI agents that Tsarnaev had informed him and a co-defendant about a month before the explosions that he knew how to make a bomb.
A lawyer for Tazhayakov, Arkady Bukh, referred questions to his client’s father, Amir Ismagulov, a former member of Parliament in Kazakhstan.
Ismagulov, speaking through a translator, said that his son is innocent of any wrongdoing.
“He denies everything, and we’ve been trying to prove this to prosecutors,” Ismagulov said.
He added that in discussions with his son over the past year, Tazhayakov has maintained that he “didn’t know that Tsarnaev wanted to make the bomb to do this.”
Tsarnaev’s lawyers could not be reached for comment on Friday. Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to a slew of charges that could bring the death penalty for his alleged role in carrying out the Marathon bombings.
The second alleged bomber, Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, was killed during a confrontation with police days after the blasts.
Gerard T. Leone Jr., a former state and federal prosecutor who helped secure a guilty plea for Richard Reid, the would-be shoe bomber, said Woodlock’s ruling on Tsarnaev’s alleged statements about bomb making could help the government in their case against Tazhayakov.
Leone said the statements could cast doubt on a possible defense argument that Tazhayakov knew nothing about Tsarnaev’s alleged intentions and actions.
“I think that’s very important for the government’s case, because the state of mind for the [criminally charged] friends of Tsarnaev is critical,” said Leone, now a partner at Nixon Peabody. “It’s not something [the defense] can’t overcome, but it’s going to be very important for the prosecution.”
But Ismagulov said his son remains optimistic on the eve of his trial.
“Azamat is very calm right now, because he knows that he did not do anything wrong,” Ismagulov said. “He’s absolutely sure that the jury will find that he’s not guilty, because he didn’t do anything wrong. He’s very calm. He’s not nervous at all.”