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Tsarnaev’s lawyer denies that Marathon bomber has prioritized paying family instead of victims

Federal prosecutors want Tsarnaev to use the money currently in his inmate trust account, including a $1,400 COVID-19 stimulus payment, to pay his criminal penalties, including restitution to his victims. Tsarnaev's lawyer says those funds are under administrative hold and cannot be accessed.Associated Press

The lawyer for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev denied the government’s assertion that Tsarnaev has prioritized sending money to his siblings over making restitution payments for his victims and said he is unable to access the thousands of dollars that people have sent him in the years since he was convicted, according to court documents filed last week.

Earlier this month, then-Acting US Attorney for Massachusetts Nathaniel Mendell’s office filed a motion seeking a federal judge’s order to turn over all funds in Tsarnaev’s inmate trust account to the clerk of the court and be put toward payment of criminal penalties, including restitution.

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The government said in its filing on Jan. 5 that Tsarnaev had $3,885.06 in his account as of Dec. 22, but in the new documents filed Wednesday his lawyer, David Patton of Federal Defenders of New York, Inc., said Tsarnaev only has access to $15 and the rest, including a $1,400 COVID relief payment from last June, was placed under administrative hold by the Bureau of Prisons.

“The remaining funds sought to be seized are in the government’s hands; some have been there for years,” Patton wrote in the response to the government’s motion.

Former Suffolk district attorney Rachael Rollins was sworn in as US attorney earlier this month. Her office did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.

The US attorney’s office had said that while Tsarnaev had not paid any money to his victims, he had sent money to other third parties, including his siblings, for “gifts,” “support,” and “books,” totaling $2,000. Patton wrote that Tsarnaev had made payments to his sisters totaling $2,000 in 2013 and 2014, but said these payments were made “before his trial began and before any competing restitution obligation arose,” according to the documents.

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Patton said Tsarnaev, who continues to be held in federal custody at a supermax prison in Florence, Colo., has spent money only on commissary items approved by the Bureau of Prison, including clothes for his job as a sanitation orderly, and to make phone calls to his parents, which he is allowed to do three times a month for 15 minutes each time, according to the documents. He said Tsarnaev pays a dollar per minute, totaling $540 a year, according to the documents.

“The $15 currently accessible to Mr. Tsarnaev reflects a spartan existence, not one in which he is ‘prioritizing’ expenditures,” Patton wrote.

An inmate may have a trust account for any money they make through prison employment or funds that are deposited by outside sources, such as family or friends, according to court documents. The account is maintained by the Bureau of Prisons.

In the government’s motion earlier this month, the US attorney’s office listed numerous deposits made to Tsaranaev’s account: A person living in Indianapolis made monthly payments from August 2015 to August of last year, totaling $2,555 in deposits. From August 2015 to December 2017, a person living in Bloomfield, N.J., made monthly payments of $50 for a total of $1,450. From September 2013 to December 2018, a person living in Frederick, Md., made periodic deposits that totaled $950.

Tsarnaev also received a total of $3,486.60 from 32 individuals and took in $11,230 from Federal Defenders of New York, Inc., prosecutors said in the filing.

Patton said the money that originated from Federal Defenders of New York, Inc., came from people who are approved to communicate with Tsarnaev under the governing special administrative measures, according to court documents. He said the organization has “never given Mr. Tsarnaev any institutional funds,” according to the documents.

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As for the other donations from people in various states, Patton wrote that Tsarnaev “has never communicated with any of them and did not solicit these contributions.” He said the Bureau of Prisons has “for several years” withheld funds deposited “by people such as these who have not been approved to communicated with him.”

In 2016, the court ordered Tsarnaev to pay a $3,000 special assessment and $101,126,627 in criminal restitution. So far, Tsarnaev has paid $2,202.03, all of which has gone toward the special assessment, according to the documents filed by the US attorney’s office on Jan. 5.

Patton wrote in his filing Wednesday that the US attorney’s office could have sought to modify the financial plan for Tsarnaev’s payments to prioritize restitution over the special assessment.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office chose to make no such request, so all of Mr. Tsarnaev’s payments were applied to the assessment and routed to a federal government fund ... not the victims,” he wrote.

Patton wrote that the Bureau of Prisons has not developed a financial plan for Tsarnaev’s restitution payments, according to the court filing.

“Nor has the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts sought (and even now does not seek) to create one,” he wrote. “Mr. Tsarnaev’s most recent BOP progress report indicates that he has no outstanding financial obligations.”

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Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.