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Friend of Tsarnaev brothers gets 30 months in prison

Khairullozhon Matanov failed to disclose contacts with the pair after the Marathon attack and deleted computer files.Facebook

A federal judge admonished the young friend of the Tsarnaev brothers Thursday for misdirecting investigators in the days after the Boston Marathon bombings, saying he could have done more for “humanity.”

“All we asked you was to give us a hand. All we wanted was for you to help us out, and you didn’t do that. . . . Instead, you gave these officers a swerve,” US District Judge William G. Young huffed at Khairullozhon Matanov, the Quincy friend of the Tsarnaev brothers who had dinner with them only hours after the April, 15, 2013, attacks that left three people dead and more than 260 injured. He was sentenced by the judge to 30 months in prison Thursday.


Young, a veteran judge whose chiding of admitted shoebomber Richard Reid made national headlines 12 years ago, acknowledged that Matanov had no legal obligation to tell authorities of his relationship with the Tsarnaev brothers. But, he argued, he had a moral one, and he said Matanov committed a crime by actually lying to investigators about the Tsarnaev brothers’ whereabouts in the hours and days after the attacks.

Speaking before a crowded, quiet courtroom, Young drew parallels by citing the men and women who rushed to the Marathon finish line after the bombings to tend to victims; the people who aided those hurt in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks; the teachers who refused to leave students after the Newtown, Conn., school shootings of 2012. Matanov did none of that.

“I’m not talking about a duty to country. I’m talking about a duty to humanity. You failed that,” said Young, as Matanov stood there, in tan prison garb, resting his hands on the desk before him. At one point, he went to sit down, but his attorney urged him to remain standing.

Earlier, Matanov, now 24, had told the judge, “I want to apologize to lying to FBI. It was wrong. I do not support, and I am not a sympathizer, of any terrorist organization. That is all I have to say.”


Matanov’s prison term will be followed by three years of supervised release. He faces deportation to his native Kyrgyzstan. The sentence was according to a plea agreement Matanov reached with prosecutors.

He was the fourth friend of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarneav to be sentenced to prison for obstructing the investigation, though there is no evidence that any of them knew anything about the bombing plan. Earlier this month, three of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth were sentenced to several years in prison for taking a backpack from Tsarnaev’s dorm room or lying about it.

Matanov, who contacted police in Braintree to say he knew the Tsarnaev brothers, ultimately acknowledged that he lied to investigators about the times he saw and communicated with them after the bombings. He also acknowledged that he deleted pro-jihadi documents from his computer after he recognized the Tsarnaev brothers as the suspected bombers, after their photos were released by the FBI.

Matanov’s attorney, Paul Glickman, contended that Matanov never meant to obstruct a terror investigation, that he was simply trying to minimize his relationship with the Tsarnaev brothers. “What he was really trying to do was distance himself, as a scared man,” he said.

But Assistant US Attorney Scott Garland told the judge that Matanov misled investigators, forcing them to reexamine what he was telling them from the onset.


“In every aspect of this, Mr. Matanov’s obstruction involved a federal crime of terrorism,” Garland said.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed on April 19, 2013, days after the bombings during a firefight with police in Watertown, while he was attempting to flee the area. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted by a jury. He is slated to be sentenced to death Wednesday.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia