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Jury Finds Tsarnaev Friend Guilty Of Lying To FBI

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Jurors in the federal trial of a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reached a verdict on Tuesday morning.

Robel Phillipos was found guilty on two counts of lying to investigators in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.

After being found guilty on both counts, Phillipos faces a maximum of 16 years in prison. He showed no emotion in the courtroom as the judge released the jury.

WBZ-TV security analyst Ed Davis reacts

Sentencing is scheduled for January 29. Phillipos will not be taken into custody before his sentencing. He will return home with the electronic bracelet he's had since his arrest.

Phillipos, of Cambridge, was charged with lying to the FBI about being present in Tsarnaev's dorm room when two other friends removed a backpack containing fireworks and other potential evidence from Tsarnaev's dorm room several days after the 2013 attack. Three people were killed and more than 260 were hurt when two bombs exploded near the finish line.

The U.S. attorney's office says jurors notified the court they had reached a verdict shortly before 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Robel Phillipos Sketch
(Image Credit: Jane Flavell Collins)

A juror who did not wish to be named told WBZ-TV's Ken MacLeod that "deliberations were difficult" and added that multiple jurors held out, leaning toward acquittal.

Phillipos' lawyers say he couldn't clearly remember what happened because he had smoked marijuana heavily that day.

The defense also called former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis to testify for Phillipos. Dukakis, an old family friend of Phillipos' mother, described a phone conversation he had with Phillipos five days after the bombings. Dukakis said Phillipos told him he had been questioned by the FBI for five hours, but was so confused he didn't remember what he said.

Michael Dukakis
Michael Dukakis talks to reporters outside federal court in South Boston, Oct. 16, 2014. (WBZ-TV)

The defense also claimed that Phillipos' confession was coerced by FBI agents.

Prosecutors scoffed at Phillipos' marijuana defense, telling the jury that he was able to remember many details about April 18 and lied about his activities that night because he knew he had done something wrong.

The two friends who removed Tsarnaev's backpack were both convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Two bombs that exploded near the marathon finish line in April 2013 killed three people.

Tsarnaev is awaiting trial in January on 30 federal charges and could face the death penalty if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.

Robel Phillipos
Robel Phillipos leaves federal court, Oct. 28, 2014. (WBZ-TV)

Phillipos left the courtroom without speaking to reporters, but his lawyers said they appreciated the jury's work in deliberations.

"Obviously it was a very close call for the jury," said defense attorney Derege Demissie.

Susan Church, another of Phillipos' attorneys, said that Phillipos was stunned by the crimes allegedly committed by his friend, Tsarnaev.

"When Robel found out that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did what he did in this case he was absolutely mortified," said Church.

"It was an unbelievable feeling of shock and betrayal that someone he knew could commit such atrocious and horrible acts."

Phillipos' attorneys said they will ask the judge to vacate the convictions and also appeal the verdict based on their argument that any statements he made to the FBI were not "material" to the bombing investigation.

Phillipos Lawyers
Derege Demissie and Susan Church outside of federal court on Oct. 28. (WBZ-TV)

Since the jury was handed the Phillipos case on Oct. 21, they spent more than 33 hours deliberating.

WBZ-TV's Christina Hager reported that the judge told jurors after the verdict was read "It's obvious you paid very close attention to the evidence."

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said that while thousands of people helped search for Tsarnaev in the aftermath of the bombings, Phillipos hindered that search.

"He lied to agents when he could have helped. He concealed when he could have assisted. It is a crime to lie to law enforcement agents and that is why Robel Phillipos was charged, and why the jury found him guilty today," Ortiz said.

"With the verdict today the jury got it exactly right."

Marc Fucarile, who was severely injured in the bombings, said on Tuesday afternoon that the verdict was good news.

"We are happy with the verdict. I am grateful and thankful for the work of the FBI and all law enforcement. The system is working," said Fucarile.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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