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Unlikely defense witness to testify in trial of Boston bombing suspect's friend

BOSTON -- Former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis is ready to take the stand as a defense witness for a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Dukakis was being called as a witness Thursday in the federal trial of Robel Phillipos, who is charged with lying to authorities about his movements three days after the attack. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when twin bombs exploded near the marathon finish line on April 15, 2013.

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Robel Phillipos arrives at federal court in Boston for the start of jury selection for his trial in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings, Sept. 29, 2014. Michael Dwyer, AP

Dukakis' wife, Kitty, is friends with Phillipos' mother.

Prosecutors say Phillipos lied about being in Tsarnaev's dorm room when two other friends removed Tsarnaev's backpack and other potential evidence just hours after the FBI released photos of Tsarnaev and his brother as suspects in the bombing. At the time, an intense manhunt was underway to find the Tsarnaevs.

Phillipos' lawyers told the jury that Phillipos was a frightened 19-year-old who was so high on marijuana he couldn't clearly remember what he did the night of April 18, 2013. They have said he did not intentionally mislead the FBI when they questioned him.

Phillipos, now 20, attended high school in Cambridge with Tsarnaev and later attended UMass-Dartmouth with him.

Prosecutors say he told a string of lies to the FBI during several interviews until he finally confessed to being in Tsarnaev's dorm room and seeing two friends remove Tsarnaev's backpack, which contained fireworks that had been emptied of their explosive powder. The backpack was later recovered in a landfill.

The other two men were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Dukakis had two stints as Massachusetts governor, from 1975 to 1979 and 1983 to 1991. He was the Democratic nominee for president in 1988, losing to Republican George H.W. Bush.

CBS Boston reports that Phillipos had several supporters at court Wednesday.

"He's a good person, and it's just really sad to see this," said one friend of Phillipos.

"I'm just here to support him and his family. We all make mistakes. We all make mistakes in life," another supporter told WBZ.

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