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Two sides argue Tsarnaev motion deadline

Federal prosecutors urged a federal judge Monday to stick to a Feb. 28 deadline that he set for lawyers for Marathon Bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to declare whether they will seek to move the case outside Boston.

Lawyers for Tsarnaev had asked US District Court Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. to indefinitely extend the deadline, which the judge set at a Nov. 12 hearing.

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The lawyers said that there are ongoing developments in the case that will influence their decision and that they will not be able to file a proper request by the Feb. 28 deadline.

In a four-page court filing Monday, the prosecutors argued that the lawyers have had plenty of time to decide whether they will seek a change of venue. “This court set the motion deadline for this specific issue, obviously signaling to all parties that it considered this to be a significant issue to be addressed sooner rather than later,” the prosecutors argued, adding that moving the deadline could “adversely impact the prompt administration of justice.”

“The defendant presents no compelling reason to extend the date for filing to some indefinite time in the future,” the prosecutors argued.

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Tsarnaev, now 20, faces multiple charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty on charges of setting off the bombs at the Marathon finish line on April 15, killing three people and injuring more than 260.

He and Tamerlan, his older brother and alleged accomplice, were also accused of killing an MIT police officer, Sean Collier, before leading police into a gunfight in Watertown. Tamerlan was killed during the gunfight.

At the Nov. 12 hearing, O’Toole ordered the lawyers in the case to file any substantive motions, such as the motion for the change of venue, and a motion to dismiss, if there is one, by Feb. 28.

He also ordered US Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. to announce by the end of January whether he will seek the death penalty, saying the decision will set the tone for future proceedings.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued that Holder’s decision could skew the public’s reaction to the case and that they will need more time to research whether a change of venue would be warranted and whether they would want to request it.

Assistant US Attorney Nadine Pellegrini argued in the court filing Monday that the defense has had plenty of time to research other factors that could play into their decision, but they have failed to do so.

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