Tsarnaev friend pleads guilty to obstruction, faces 7 years max

Prosecutors: Man sought to protect bombing suspect

BOSTON — A college friend of the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect, who denied last year that he hindered the investigation into blasts at the finish line of the race, changed his plea to guilty on Thursday.

Dias Kadyrbayev, 20, entered guilty pleas to one count of obstruction of justice and one of conspiracy to obstruct justice in federal court.

“Do you think you know enough to be able to plead guilty?” Judge Douglas P. Woodlock asked.

Kadyrbayev took a deep breath. “I think I do,” he said.

In a plea agreement, federal prosecutors said they would seek no more than seven years in prison for Kadyrbayev. Woodlock will not say whether he plans to accept the deal until a sentencing hearing on Nov. 18.

Kadyrbayev’s lawyer, Robert Stahl, indicated he would seek less than seven years for his client but declined to provide further details. Outside the court, he said Kadyrbayev had made “an error in judgment that he’s paying for dearly.”

Federal prosecutors say that in the days after the April 15, 2013, bombing, which left three people dead and more than 260 wounded, Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, his roommate who was also a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s, realized that their friend was the bombing suspect and tried to destroy evidence that might tie him to the crime.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov are accused of entering Tsarnaev’s dormitory room at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and removing a backpack containing fireworks, a laptop and other items. Several hours later, according to prosecutors, Kadyrbayev put the backpack in a trash bin near the apartment he shared with Tazhayakov in New Bedford, Massachusetts. It was found in a nearby landfill.

The same day, April 18, Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, are accused of shooting and killing an MIT police officer named Sean Collier before leading the authorities on a chase that ended in Tamerlan’s death. Dzhokhar eluded the authorities for another day before he was found wounded in a boat in a backyard in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Earlier this summer, Tazhayakov was convicted of the same charges that Kadyrbayev faces, after about a week of testimony.

The jury heard testimony from several witnesses, including law enforcement agents and Tsarnaev’s college roommate. The jurors were told that it was Kadyrbayev, not Tazhayakov, who first discovered the backpack and who disposed of it. Tazhayakov was nevertheless convicted, suggesting that Kadyrbayev’s defense team would have faced an uphill climb at trial.