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Three People In Custody On Boston Case

Aired May 1, 2013 - 14:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Welcome back to our breaking coverage out of Boston. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Major dramatic developments here in this case involving the fatal marathon bomb attack, two Mondays ago, here on Boylston Street.

We now have the names and we have pictures of two of these three young suspects who are facing federal charges. We're going to put their names up on the screen so I can tell you exactly who they are. Two of them, apparently, according to this criminal complaint, lived with the younger suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

These are the two names at the top, two 19-year-olds, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev. These are two Kazakh students. These are the two students who are facing the federal charge conspiracy to obstruct justice. And the third, an American, Robel Phillipos, also age 19.

Getting information as we're reading through this criminal complaint, just talking to Joe Johns and Ashleigh Banfield who is here with me as well, learning that there were -- there was a back and forth during the timeline, the week in which these two suspects were on the run after, as they are charged, with setting off these fatal pressure cookers here in Boston.

That there was, according to this criminal complaint, some back and forth with this younger suspect and these three students that there was a communication, they were told according to the criminal complaint to get rid of a computer, and fireworks, we have pictures of the fireworks from the criminal complaint.

So clearly an element of criminality as is alleged in this complaint, this third suspect, this American facing federal charge of making false statements, lying to investigators about what he knew and when.

Got all kinds of coverage, A-team here in Boston to walk us through this on this afternoon, beginning with Brian Todd who is standing by, not too far from me here in Boston at the federal courthouse. And, Brian, we know the suspects will be making their first court appearance there in less than an hour.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke. Less than an hour in Courtroom 19 here at the Moakley Courthouse in Boston and we now have all three names as we have been reporting, Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov and robel Phillipos, the three people who are accused in this complaint of conspiring to obstruct justice and making false statements.

We have been reading through the complaint as you have on some of the details. Again, the complaint says that these three knowingly destroyed, concealed, covered up objects belonging to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, namely a backpack containing fireworks, and a laptop computer, and according to this complaint, it says with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the criminal investigation.

Again, the third name we can now report is Robel Phillipos, who is accused himself of knowingly and wilfully making false statements in this case. Now, specifically what we have to dig into here is what the complaint says and that says that all three admitted that on April 18th, you have go back and remember, this was the day before Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken into custody.

On April 18th, all three admitted they removed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's backpack from his dorm room at UMass Dartmouth dorm room in New Bedford. And that Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov said they agreed to get rid of it after concluding from news reports that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was involved in the Boston marathon bombings.

The complaint says that they found the -- the authorities found that backpack later in a land fill, the backpack -- there was a picture inside the complaint that has the contents of it, the backpack contained fireworks, a jar of Vaseline and other items and the complaint says Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov placed the backpack in a trash bag and threw it into a dumpster.

And that Phillipos confided to agents he lied about what the other two people had done. Important to emphasize here, Brooke, all of this took place after the bombings, no indication at all that these three people were involved in any of the planning of the bombings beforehand.

This was according to this complaint an effort by them to get rid of some of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's belongings, namely a backpack with fireworks in it, and his laptop computer -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK, Brian Todd, thank you so much at the federal courthouse where the suspects will be making their first appearance at around 3:30 Eastern Time. The White House spokesperson Jay Carney was asked about this news today. Here was his response to the daily briefing.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There is obviously been a lot of information provided thus far in some of the reporting that has been done. The president said on Saturday night some of the excellent reporting that has been done. The - but this is an ongoing investigation and part of the responsibility of an investigators is to explore all possible associations or connections.

Even if we pause it that it may seem at this point based on the information that has been gathered and produced and reported on that it looks as though these might have been self-radicalized individuals, you know, that's a sub position that has to be proven through investigation.

And the investigators have to follow all paths and I know the president expects that's what the FBI, which is the lead nation this investigation, is making sure is what is happening in this investigation. So I don't want to, you know, make any characterizations about the developments today at this stage or say conclusively one way or the other beyond the basis of what we know so far.


BALDWIN: Jay Carney there, speaking to reporters at the White House, a little while ago. I want to bring in CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, who is also former assistant director of the FBI, and Ashleigh Banfield also joining me here as well.

But, Tom, let me begin with you. We know that these suspects are slated to appear in this federal court here in Boston, facing the federal charges, again, conspiracy of obstruction of justice and lying to investigators.

And as we're reading through the criminal complaint, forgive me for -- Ashleigh and I and Jeff Toobin as well, remarking on the sheer stupidity if these allegations are true that these young people would have done such a thing.

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You're right, Brooke. I think the stupidity, you know of other friends that have been interviewed, that, you know, tell the reporters and tell others that they recognized that it was Dzhokhar, they recognized the pictures put out by the FBI on Thursday afternoon that went, you know, worldwide media and internet coverage.

And even after recognizing them thought, well, you know, I don't want to throw him under the bus then call the authorities because they're friends and didn't want to get them in trouble. This is just ridiculous.

These are two people who have killed, they're murderers, they're terrorists, and yet you have friends acting like, we're going to try to keep him from getting in trouble with, you know, getting him sent to the principal's office or something.

It is very stupid and very troubling, given the seriousness of what these guys are accused of doing, other friends and classmates and dorm mates and others would just agree to dispose of evidence and hide information and lie to the authorities during the investigation. I think it is just incredible.

BALDWIN: And Ashleigh Banfield, as you've been reading here on your trusty iPad, you know, the criminal complaint, the window in which they were communicating apparently with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is after his face is plastered all over local, national, international media, and we know now in this criminal complaint that these friends of his are watching CNN and said, that guy looks like our friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. BANFIELD: And very specific because, you know, whether it was CNN or any other network it was wall to wall everywhere and if you passed by anyone, everyone knew this was going on. Before we go to that, I want to draw your attention to a footnote in the complaint.

It said during interviews, Tazhayakov also informed the FBI agents that while eating a meal with Dzhokhar and Kadyrbayev, approximately one month prior to the marathon bombings, Dzhokhar had explained to Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov that he knew how to make a bomb.

So now we're going to go in advance of this, and you heard Alan Dershowitz earlier say, it does not behove you to report or get involved as a citizen to stop a crime necessarily. You don't commit a crime if you don't do it. However --

BALDWIN: If you're not asking questions.

BANFIELD: It gives you the state of mind if this complaint is accurate, and if the allegations are true, it gives you the state of mind of these students, who have a one-month prior to having discussed that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev knew how to make a bomb, then they see the CNN reports of his face, then they finally, by the way, finally admit in this complaint that they had lied during the complaint.

That they knew nothing about it, and then they admitted, OK, we did know, we saw him on TV, we knew while you were searching and asking us that we knew he was, you know, we knew he was a wanted man. They also knew from a month prior that he knew he announced he had known how to make a bomb.

So it becomes even more significant there. Their basis of knowledge and the basis of which they corporal formulated a quick response to say in their defense in their best defense, Dzhokhar calls him roommate and says, I think my brother is in trouble, my stuff is in my room, get rid of it, I don't want him to get in trouble.

You don't know what he told his roommates, but you now know what the roommates are telling investigators according to their complaint.

BALDWIN: And, again, taking this also to -- all coming out, half a step back, Tom Fuentes, what do we know as far as when this whole thing broke? They were taken in initially, questioned by investigators, taken in initially and held because of student visa violations and, now, clearly, much more serious, these federal charges, correct?

FUENTES: Right. I think much of this part of the investigation was developed by Department of Homeland Security, immigration, customs enforcement, the marshals, ATF and other agencies as well, working with the FBI and Boston police and other members of the JTTF there.

But I think another interesting aspect of this to me is we have all been -- many people have been making the assumption that Dzhokhar was under the influence or spell of his brother and yet when he's discussing, making a bomb, you know, playing with fireworks, all of this with his friends, his brother is not there. So how much independent thought and independent desire to make a bomb, which he says he can make, and to get involved and actually planting the bombs on the day of the marathon, and throwing them at the police, you know, four days later, how much of this is -- he did want to do it as well? He's an active under the control or controlled psychologically by the older brother.

BALDWIN: It's an interesting point, having been in Cambridge and talked to a bunch of his friends and talked about how, you know, Dzhokhar would follow his older brother around like a puppy dog. You're right, to the point that this also shows the younger brother's sort of independence as well.

BANFIELD: This is absolutely fascinating, with regard to what these three may have known at the time of perpetrating the alleged Kadyrbayev decided to remove the backpack and the laptop after a text with Dzhohkar Tsarnaev, and Vaseline. OK, that's the first I've heard of this.

He decided to remove it from Dzhokhar's room after concluding from news reports that Tsarnaev was one of the Boston bombers. The fireworks in the backpack had been emptied of the powder. Dias Believed that Tsarnaev used Vaseline, quote, "to make the bombs." After the backpack and the computer were in Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov's apartment, they watched news reports identifying Tsarnaev.

And according to Dias Kadyrbayev, they collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash. It should be noted as well, since we're talking about three suspects, that the third suspect, Robel Phillipos, did not participate in the dumping of those items in the trash, but did know that Dias had done so. These are the allegations from the criminal complaint, pretty unbelievable.

BALDWIN: Wow. We're going to get more legal reaction. Jeff Toobin is on the phone. Also talk to Gloria Borger. She's getting information from her sources in Washington. Those two guests coming up after the break, breaking news, again, awaiting that first court appearance of the three young suspects as we're learning the tic tac, the chronology before the Boston marathon bombings, their conversation with this younger Tsarnaev with whom two of them lived with, and what they knew afterwards. Back in a moment.


BALDWIN: Welcome back to Boston, live coverage here, breaking news as we have now learned there are three young suspects who are due in a federal courthouse here in Boston, very, very shortly, facing incredibly serious charges, federal charges involving lying to investigators and also conspiracy to obstruct justice, to cover up.

We have been reading through page after page after page of this criminal complaint, learning about what these young people, two of whom lived, these are Kazakh -- two young people from Kazakhstan lived with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, learning what they knew, what conversations they had with this young person before the marathon bombings. And also after the fact, once Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and older brother were on the run, text exchanges involving moving his backpack, getting into the trash can, moving the fireworks, Vaseline as well. Gloria Borger is joining me now. She's in Washington. She, too, is learning a little bit more from her sources. Gloria, what are you learning?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a government official with knowledge of the investigation says to me that so far they have absolutely no sense that any of these young men were participants in the attack. So we should say that very clearly, that obstruction of justice is the theory, at least as of now, he said, that they concealed essential evidence, didn't come forward to authorities, after the picture of the brother was released.

Now, we know you've been reading the complaint on the air, it is very clear from what is in the complaint that one of the young men, Dias said, quote, "That he removed the backpack from the room in order to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble," right? So they knew what they were doing. The question, I think, is did they know the significance of what they were doing.

I mean, you've been saying on the air how idiotic they are, so the question is did they really understand the significance of what they were doing given the enormity of the Boston marathon bombing? These two things just kind of don't compute. But, again, the authorities, according to my source, have no reason to believe that they were a part of the planning of the attack.

BALDWIN: OK, so nothing to do with the planning, but perhaps involved in either --

BORGER: Cover-up.

BALDWIN: Not asking questions, and covering up what we now know became of the Boston bombings. Gloria, thank you. Jeff Toobin is back with me on the phone. And, Jeff Toobin, again, you called our attention to the sheer stupidity of these three young people on air, again, we're crystal clear on the fact that authorities do in the think the three young people were involved in the planning of said attack, here on Boylston Street.

But as we are reading, line by line through this complaint, it just makes you -- it boggles the mind how they could not have known what was going on and what their friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was involved with.

TOOBIN: Well, it actually suggests that they did know what he was involved with, and chose to try to help him out. Why would you get rid of evidence if you think your friend is innocent? So it is really worse than that if the allegations are true. It is, you know, yet another story in the annals of friends trying to help each other in the worst possible way under the worst circumstances, and if these allegations are proven, these three young men are going to pay a very heavy price for that.

BALDWIN: But, it will pale in comparison to the price that their friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could potentially face, right? I mean, the death penalty currently is on the table because of the weapons of mass destruction charge What could, if, in fact, they are convicted of said federal charges, what kind of penalty would they be facing here?

TOOBIN: Well, they would be looking at something up to about five years in prison. The federal sentencing guidelines give judges a certain range of possibilities to sentence, which, in part, depends on the severity of the lie and the importance of the lie.

I think many people remember that Martha Stewart went to prison for lying to an FBI agent in what was obviously a bad circumstance, certainly not a life or death matter. Here, of course, you have an investigation of a terrible crime, involving the death of several people.

So, these young men are very unlikely to get any sympathy from any judge. Two of them are not American citizens and I think are very likely to be thrown out of the country after they complete their sentences or if they're lucky instead of going to prison. But I think they have -- they have been free people in the United States for the last time, those two.

BALDWIN: Yes. Gloria, jump back in. I hear you want to add one more thing.

BORGER: I think it is going to be very difficult for these young men to claim that they really didn't understand the enormity of what they were doing by dumping the backpack, concealing evidence, helping out their friend as they put it, quote, "to avoid trouble."

I mean, there they are, in the middle of the Boston marathon bombing, understanding the enormity of the damage and the personal destruction that had occurred, and they're suddenly dumping a backpack. So they could -- they could help out their friend.

I mean, they may not have been involved in the planning of the attack as the U.S. government official tells me, but not responding and concealing evidence is an enormous crime, which they're going to try and say perhaps we didn't get it, but that sort of strains credulity here.

BALDWIN: Again, the federal charges, false statements, making false statements and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Gloria Borger and Jeff Toobin, thank you. Don't go too far. We're awaiting this first appearance in federal court, just down the road from me here in Boston of these three young suspects now facing serious charges. We have this criminal complaint. We have new details after this quick break.


BALDWIN: Welcome back to Boston. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Ashleigh Banfield, I want to bring you back in. We have been going through this criminal complaint that these three young suspects are facing, two of whom are from Kazakhstan. They were dorm mates. We should be clear -- BANFIELD: I'm not sure they were dorm mates. I think they may have had another apartment, something separate from campus, still trying to sort that out. Even the feds have called them roommates and dorm mates at various times.

BALDWIN: It's not clear, but they were at UMass Dartmouth with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and also this third, Robel Phillipos, the American who is now also charged with lying to investigators. To this point, this is a big deal, these are federal charges, they're due any minute in the federal courthouse, but to Jeff Toobin's point and yours as well, they would be facing five years, eight years, depending --

BANFIELD: At a maximum, at a maximum. Let's not forget. Notwithstanding these are serious because of the circumstance that this city is in. If you're associated anything to do with this -- these attacks, cover-up thereafter, it is awful. Legally speaking, these are charges that for the first two suspects they could face only about five years max in prison, $250,000 in fines and that's for the --

BALDWIN: Conspiring -- of the obstruction.

BANFIELD: Obstruction, which actually defies logic. You would think if you're getting rid of evidence, it may be more serious than telling a lie. Both being heinous, but the other, Phillipos being charged with the wilfully making materially false statements, that carries with it a more serious sentence, that's up to eight years.

It is a maximum of eight years and, again, another $250,000 in fines. I should also let you know in the complaint, Mr. Phillipos has also said at one point that the other two were speaking in Russian. And I'm going to try to grab the quotes.

Mr. Phillipos said he did not understand the majority of what Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were saying because they were speaking in Russian. He recalled at approximately 11:00 p.m., they had a discussion about what to do with the backpack and the fireworks.

Phillipos and Kadyrbayev asked if, quote, "They should get rid of the stuff" or words to that effect and Phillipos replied that Kadyrbayev should, quote, "Do what you have to do." Here from the school of absolute morons, Phillipos stated he then took a two-hour nap.

When he awoke, the backpack was gone. Phillipos stated he did not know for sure who took it from the apartment. This maybe something that mitigates the defense in the well or helps the defense in a way or mitigates his culpability in a way that the other two were speaking Russian, he didn't understand Russian.

BALDWIN: Ashleigh Banfield, thank you. Now this.