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Boston Marathon bomber Tsarnaev blames federal prison officials for his ‘mental and physical decline’

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is blaming federal prison officials for causing his “mental and physical decline” by secretly being in touch with victims of the 2013 terror attack while he serves his sentence in a Colorado supermax prison.

In a handwritten lawsuit filed in US District Court in Colorado Monday, Tsarnaev said a prison official seized a white baseball cap and bandana he had with him when he arrived at the US Bureau of Prisons facility in 2015 without a legal basis for doing so.

“I am concerned that she might be communicating with victims in my case, thus making her unable to be fair and impartial to me,” Tsarnaev wrote of the unit manager at the prison in Florence, Colo. “This discriminatory action ... violate my rights and has resulted in my mental and physical decline.”


Tsarnaev said the prison official seized the items as contraband because they symbolized that he was “disrespecting the FBI and victims in your case.” Tsarnaev wore a baseball cap when he and his brother, Tamerlan, detonated two bombs at the Marathon finish line on April 15, 2013.

Killed in the attack were 8-year-old Martin Richard of Dorchester, Boston University graduate student Lingzi Lu, and Medford native Krystle Campbell. Boston Police Sergeant Dennis “DJ” Simmonds died a year later from a head injury sustained during a shootout in Watertown with the Tsarnaevs that ended with Tamerlan’s death. The brothers also fatally shot MIT Police Officer Sean Collier on April 18, 2013, while they were on the run.

In court papers, Tsarnaev wrote that he wore the cap only to shield himself from the sun at the prison where he is allowed to clean the exercise yard occasionally, not as a gesture related to the terror attack. He was sentenced to death by a federal jury, but appellate judges ordered a new sentencing trial last year.


The US Supreme Court is currently considering whether to reimpose the death sentence or require US Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office to conduct a new sentencing trial. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision sometime this month.

In his lawsuit, Tsarnaev also alleged that prison officials are fabricating reasons for not lowering the security setting that determines how he spends his days in the supermax prison. He said that he is currently allowed only three showers a week and two phone calls a month, but his good conduct should have earned him a daily shower and three phone calls monthly.

He said he was told recently that he was faulted for not smiling at the warden when the prison official toured Tsarnaev’s cell block each week.

“I’m being discriminated against,” he said. “My right to fair and impartial treatment is violated ... These denials have caused me a great deal of stress and mental torment.”

Tsarnaev asked the court to fine prison officials $250,000 and to appoint a lawyer to represent him as he pursues the lawsuit. The US Bureau of Prisons has not responded to the lawsuit.

Read the full lawsuit below:

John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him @JREbosglobe.