A college friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev apologized to victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and their families Tuesday, saying he failed to help prevent his friend’s crimes, as he pleaded for mercy before a federal judge.
Dias Kadyrbayev, who was sentenced to six years in prison Tuesday, was not involved in the April 15, 2013, Marathon attacks and did not know of Tsarnaev’s plans, but authorities said he could have done more to prevent the fatal shooting of MIT police Officer Sean Collier and the police shootout in Watertown that followed. Those crimes occurred days after the attacks, after Kadyrbayev identified his friend as one of the suspected bombers in FBI photos.
“The person I was back then, I’m ashamed of that person,” Kadyrbayev told US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock. “Now I know every decision has consequences, my decision has consequences as well . . . and I apologize for that.”
“I regret it every day,” the 21-year-old said, before pausing, and taking a deep breath.
His lawyer, Robert Stahl. told Woodlock that Kadyrbayev was a teenager at the time of his crime and will live with the connection to the bombing “for the rest of his life.”
A jury found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty and voted to sentence him to death for his role in the Marathon attack. His older brother and coconspirator, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in the Watertown shootout two years ago.
Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty in August 2014 to conspiracy and obstruction of justice, for going into Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth after he identified Tsarnaev in FBI photos. Kadyrbayev then searched the room and took Tsarnaev’s laptop computer and a bag containing explosive powder from fireworks.
Kadyrbayev also threw the backpack away, but authorities found it in a landfill, and that was also introduced in the trial.
Another college friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, also from Kazakhstan, had been convicted in July 2014 of cooperating with Kadyrbayev to take the items. A third college friend, Robel Phillipos, was convicted in October of lying to authorities about seeing the two men take the items. They are slated to be sentenced Friday. Prosecutors have asked that Tazhayakov serve four years and that Phillipos serve five years.
Prosecutors said Kadyrbayev was the one who actively searched Tsarnaev’s room. He also exchanged text messages with Tsarnaev after he identified him in the FBI photos. Kadyrbayev texted Tsarnaev, saying, “U saw the news?” and then “u saw urself there?”
Assistant US Attorney Stephanie Siegmann argued that Kadyrbayev could have prevented other crimes, such as the killing of Collier, by reporting Tsarnaev’s identity to authorities.
Collier was shot to death several hours after Kadyrbayev recognized his friend in the photos.
“At no point did the defendant heed the FBI’s plea for help from the public,” she said. “It does go to his moral character. We will never know whether his actions could have prevented it.”
Collier’s family submitted a statement supporting a prison sentence for Kadyrbayev.
In handing out his sentence, Woodlock said he agreed that “anyone confronted with the information unfolding in real time would have understood the seriousness of this, and how important it would have been to have all the information available.”
“There’s a moral obligation to do that, and the failure to do that was indicative of an intent to commit a very serious crime,” the judge said. He also recognized that Kadyrbayev was apologetic and remorseful.
“Mr. Kadyrbayev, you’re being held responsible. You’ve come to understand you’re responsible for your acts,” the judge said.
Outside the courthouse, Kadyrbayev’s father, who had travelled from Kazakhstan, said the sentence was “very hard” for the family, but he recognized the seriousness of his son’s crimes, and the effect it had on Tsarnaev’s victims.
“I feel proud for my son, because he made the speech, he understands what he’s done, and he’s grown up,” the father, Murat Kadyrbayev, said through a translator.
“He’s a mature person now. Had he known what he was doing, and had he understood what he was doing, we wouldn’t be standing here.”Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.