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Azamat Tazhayakov verdict could affect related court cases

Other defendants might seek a deal

The Tazhayakov family — mother Tuyrsynai, sister Almira, and father Ismagoulov —left the federal courthouse Monday.

Zack Wittman for the Boston Globe

The Tazhayakov family — mother Tuyrsynai, sister Almira, and father Ismagoulov —left the federal courthouse Monday.

The conviction Monday of one of the college friends of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could influence how two other friends defend themselves against charges that they also lied to authorities investigating the bombings, according to legal analysts, who said the verdict could also lead the defendants to seek a deal.

“You have to be concerned about the implications of this verdict,” said Bradford Bailey, a defense attorney in Boston and a former state and federal prosecutor.

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Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, a former University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student from the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, was found guilty by a jury of obstruction of justice and conspiring to obstruct justice by hindering the FBI’s investigation into Tsarnaev in the days after the bombing.

Bailey also raised the possibility that the quick verdict, delivered after roughly 15 hours of deliberations, could support the claim by Tsarnaev’s lawyers that it will be impossible for him to receive a fair trial in Boston.

“It certainly suggests that . . . [those involved in the trial] will have to take a look at the change of venue, in terms of the publicity around this case and whether they can have an objective jury in the district of Massachusetts,” Bailey said.

The jury deliberated for just over two days, in the first trial related to the Marathon bombing.

Tazhayakov faces a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction-of-justice charge, and up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge. He is slated to be sentenced Oct. 16.

Another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, also a UMass student from Kazakhstan, is scheduled to go to trial in September on the same charges, which allege that he took a computer and a backpack containing fireworks from Tsarnaev’s dorm room after the FBI released photos of the bombing suspects. Robel Phillipos, a third student from UMass Dartmouth who grew up in Cambridge, is slated to go to trial in September on charges that he lied about being with Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev when they visited Tsarnaev’s dorm.

Robert Stahl, an attorney for Kadyrbayev, said in a statement Monday that “while today’s verdict is disheartening, Dias Kadyrbayev continues to assert his innocence and hopes and prays that his jury will understand that he had no intent to obstruct justice.”

Derege Demissie and Susan Church, attorneys for Phillipos, said in a statement that the verdict had “absolutely no bearing” on his case, noting that Phillipos’s case had been separated from the others.

“Robel Phillipos has never been charged with nor suspected of destroying evidence in the case,” the lawyers said. “We look forward to having a fair and impartial jury on the separate charges against our client in the future.”

Legal analysts agreed that Phillipos’s case differs from the other students but said that he and Kadyrbayev will still face the same obstacles in convincing a jury that they did not intend to commit a crime when they went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room the night of April 18, 2013.

A backpack allegedly taken from the room by Kadyrbayev was later found by the FBI in a New Bedford landfill.

Text messages shown at Tazhayakov’s trial show that he probably recognized his friend in surveillance photos released by the FBI before the friends went to the dorm room.

The analysts also raised the possibility that lawyers for Phillipos and Kadyrbayev might contemplate seeking deals with prosecutors. Tazhayakov could also consider cooperating with authorities and testifying at Tsarnaev’s trial about conversations he allegedly had with Tsarnaev before the bombing, in which Tsarnaev said it would be OK to be a “martyr.”

“[The verdict] is certainly not a good development, and may well encourage them to seek a deal from the government, but the government may not be interested in any deal at this point,” said Brian Kelly, a former prosecutor and an attorney with Nixon Peabody.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@
globe.com
. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.
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