Friend of Boston Marathon bomber asks US Supreme Court to hear his case

Robel Phillipos (right).
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe/file 2015
Robel Phillipos (right).

A friend of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev is turning to the US Supreme Court in hopes of overturning his conviction for lying to the FBI following the April 2013 bombing that killed three and wounded more than 260.

Robel Phillipos, 24, met Tsarnaev when both were students at UMass Dartmouth and was questioned by the FBI after Tsarnaev, and his brother, Tamerlan, were identified as the persons responsible for the terrorist bombing near the finish line on April 15, 2013.

Phillipos had initially denied to the FBI that he went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the school three days after the bombing after he recognized Tsarnaev in a photo of the bombing suspects released by the FBI.


He denied going there with two other friends, and said he did not see them enter the room and remove a backpack.

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But he later confessed that he had lied and was convicted by a jury in US District Court in Boston. Phillipos, who had no prior criminal history, was sentenced to three years in prison.

According to the US Bureau of Prisons, he is scheduled to be released next February from a minimum security prison in Pennsylvania.

The legal arguments Phillipos’ attorney, Derege B. Demissie, will raise before the nation’s highest court have not been revealed. Demissie filed what is called a petition for certiorari with the court on Friday, and federal prosecutors have until Dec. 4 to file their answer.

But when the Cambridge’s man’s conviction was challenged before the First Circuit Court of Appeals, his lawyers argued the trial was unfair because the trial judge refused to review if his statements to the FBI were voluntary.


The trial judge ruled Phillipos would have to testify in order for the issue to be explored, a decision the appellate court concluded was legally justified as they upheld his conviction.

Tsarnaev, 24, the only person to be charged with carrying out the Marathon bombing, was sentenced to death in 2015. He is appealing his sentence. His brother, Tamerlan, was killed during a confrontation with police in Watertown.

The Supreme Court can choose not to review the case.

John R. Ellement can be reached at