Robel Phillipos, a friend of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was found guilty on Tuesday of lying to federal agents who were investigating the deadly explosions.
His defense largely hinged on the contention that he was too high on marijuana to remember what happened in the days after the attack, but prosecutors argued he deliberately lied about what happened when his friends removed evidence from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth dorm room of the accused bomber.
Here are some key facts about the case.
What’s the connection between this case and the bombing?
Phillipos, 21, was not accused of having anything to do with the planning or execution of the attacks, which killed three and injured more than 260. His involvement came during the ensuing investigation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan on April 18, 2013.
In the hours after authorities released photos of the bombing suspects, Phillipos allegedly went with two other friends to Dzhokhar’s dorm room.
The two friends, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both originally from Kazakhstan, have been convicted of obstructing justice by taking Tsarnaev’s backpack, which contained emptied fireworks, and discarding it in a dumpster near their apartment.
They are awaiting sentencing.
Phillipos was not charged with taking the evidence, but authorities say he knew about what happened and misled investigators. He faced two counts of lying, and because the case involved terrorism, Phillipos faces up to eight years in prison for each count.
How did marijuana play into the case?
Phillipos’s lawyers claimed that he did not lie to investigators. He just didn’t clearly recall what happened on the night in question because he was “high out of his mind.”
According to his defense, Phillipos smoked marijuana a half-dozen times that day, and so he was unable, under intense questioning, to reconstruct his actions. Authorities say he first told investigators he did not remember going to the dorm room, then said he went there but found the door locked.
Experts were divided over how a jury might respond to the marijuana defense — some believed it would be hard to convince jurors that marijuana could lead to a total blackout. But an expert for the defense said on the stand that such heavy use “would impair memory, executive function, and judgment, as well as other potential cognitive functions.”
What did the prosecution have to prove?
The prosecutors argued that Phillipos lied during two interrogations — once on April 20, 2013, and again five days later. Jurors reviewed nine statements to decide whether they were deliberate lies. To find Phillipos guilty on both counts, jurors needed to decide that he made a false statement at least once on each day. The jury ended up finding that Phillipos made false statements for five separate lies he had told.
In addition, jurors found that his false statements were made during a terrorism investigation, a finding that raised his possible sentence. Punishments are more harsh for false statements involving terrorism. He now faces up to eight years in prison on each count.
What’s this about Michael Dukakis?
The former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate is a family friend of Phillipos, and testified as a defense witness.
Dukakis said he spoke to Phillipos after an interrogation. “He told me he was so confused he didn’t know what he said,” Dukakis said on the stand.
He said his wife, Kitty, got to know Phillipos’s mother, Genet Bekele, while they were social workers assisting refugees at the International Institute in Boston. Dukakis took Phillipos to the Democratic National Convention in 2004.
What’s the latest on the bombing case?
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s older brother, died in a shootout with police in Watertown in the early hours of April 19, 2013. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is awaiting trial early next year and could face the death penalty.