The family of slain MIT police officer Sean Collier has asked a federal judge to sentence a college friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to seven years in prison, saying the friend could have prevented Collier’s death had he turned Tsarnaev in.
Collier’s step-father, Joseph W. Rogers, submitted a five-page victim impact statement in advance of the sentencing next week of Dias Kadyrbayev, a Kazakhstan national who attended the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth with Tsarnaev.
“Had the defendant notified the police, rather than cover up for the alleged terrorists, it may have prevented the murder of Sean, the almost fatal wounding of MBTA Police Officer Richard Donohue and the gun fight in Watertown where the Tsarnaev brothers attempted to murder at least six Watertown police officers,” Rogers wrote.
He added, “He chose to say nothing, and because of that, he has taken everything away from us.”
Kadyrbayev, who is now in his early 20s, pleaded guilty in August 2014 to federal obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges, under an agreement that prosecutors would recommend no more than a seven-year sentence. US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock would have to approve the agreement before handing out the sentence.
In his statement, Rogers said he supports a seven-year sentence for Kadyrbayev, who admitted that he went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room in the days after the Marathon bombing and helped remove evidence.
Kadyrbayev and two of Tsarnaev’s other college friends were arrested days after the April 2013 bombing. Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty after another friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, also from Kazakhstan, was convicted by a jury of getting rid of a backpack belonging to Tsarnaev that contained explosive powder from fireworks. The evidence was later recovered at a landfill in New Bedford.
The third friend, Robel Phillipos, 20, of Cambridge, was convicted by a jury of lying to investigators about seeing the other two friends take the backpack from Tsarnaev’s dorm room, after they had recognized Tsarnaev in photos released by the FBI as authorities attempted to identify the bombing suspects.
Text messages between Kadyrbayev and Tsarnaev cited in court records show that Kadyrbayev texted Tsarnaev around 5 p.m. on April 18, 2013, saying, “U saw the news?” and then “u saw urself there?”
Tsarnaev then told his friend he could take what he wanted from his dorm room.
“At this point, most decent people would have called police or [the] FBI and informed them of the identities of the suspected Marathon Bombers,” Rogers wrote. Kadyrbayev, he continued, “was well aware that his friend, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was a suspected terrorist...yet he took no action.”
The three friends are all scheduled to be sentenced next week with Kadyrbayev’s hearing slated for Tuesday. Federal prosecutors this week submitted a filing asking the judge to sentence Kadyrbayev to seven years in prison, under the agreement they reached when he pleaded guilty last year.
Prosecutors acknowledged there is no evidence that Kadyrbayev was aware of Tsarnaev’s plans to bomb the Boston Marathon, but they say he still “conspired … to obstruct a terrorism investigation and affirmatively acted to impede the bombing investigation at the criticzal moment when the investigation was intensely focused on locating the Tsarnaev brothers and thwarting further acts of violence.”
“He chose to engage a series of actions designed to impede, obstruct, and influence the FBI’s Boston Marathon bombing investigation,” prosecutors said.
In his statement, Rogers says that even though Kadyrbayev admitted his crimes, he should still be held accountable. The statement also echos the testimony Rogers gave during the sentencing portion of Tsarnaev’s trial, telling the story of Collier’s law enforcement aspirations, and detailing how his loss contnues to affect the whole family.
He said all the 27-year-old Collier wanted to do was become a police officer.
“The impact this crime has had on our family is immeasurable,” Rogers wrote. “”Every day is a struggle knowing that he is gone and being aware of the circumstances surrounding his murder, specifically that it could absolutely have been prevented.”
Tsarnaev, now 21, was convicted in April of all charges he faced, including for his participation in the Marathon explosions, the firefight with police in Watertown, and the killing of Collier. The jury last month agreed to sentence Tsarnaev to death for the charges related only to the bomb he set off at the Marathon finish line. He will receive life sentences for his other crimes, including the killing of Collier.
Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.