Robel Phillipos: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s American college friend blames involvement on "bad luck."

Dzhokhar's College Friend Granted Bail

Dzhokhar's College Friend Granted Bail

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May 6 2013 2:24 PM

Dzhokhar's College Friend, Described as "Frightened and Confused," Freed on Bail

Screen shot 2013-05-02 at 4.36.23 PM

Screenshot from YouTube video uploaded last year by Robel Phillipos.

UPDATE: A Boston judge this afternoon signed off on a deal that will release Robel Phillipos from police custody while he awaits trial for lying to federal investigators. His release comes with a set of strict conditions—including 24-hour monitoring by way of an ankle bracelet—but nonetheless represents a significant reversal for federal authorities who last week had described the 19-year-old as a serious flight risk.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.

The deal itself was hammered out earlier today by Phillipos' defense team and prosecutors, but needed to be approved by the presiding judge in the case. "Since the initial appearance, the parties have conferred extensively and now agree that the court can fashion strict conditions of release that will reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance at future proceedings," both sides wrote in the joint filing suggesting bail be granted.


According to Boston's WCVB, Phillipos will now be placed under house arrest at his mother's home and subject to 24-hour monitoring. He'll also need to post a $100,000 bond, surrender his passport and be subject to random testing for alcohol and drugs.

In court documents filed over the weekend, the defendant's lawyers offered a more complete biographical sketch of their client and his mother. Here's the Boston Globe with the details:

In court documents filed Saturday, Phillipos’s lawyers and supporters said he is the only son of Genet Bekele, a domestic violence specialist who moved to the state in 1981 and has since earned three college degrees: an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in political science from Northeastern University, and a master’s degree in social work from Boston University.
According to the defense filing, Phillipos is bilingual in Amharic and English but is fully integrated into American life, having been raised here. In affidavits, friends and his attorney described Phillipos as a conscientious and civic-minded man who was “frightened and confused’’ when questioned about Tsarnaev after the bombings.

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Original Post 10:35: Robel Phillipos, one of three college friends charged with intentionally hindering the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing, is set to appear in federal court later today, where his lawyers will ask a judge to release him on bail. According to the criminal complaint filed against the 19-year-old, the prosecution's case appears quite damning. The police affidavit offers multiple examples of Phillipos changing the story he offered to investigators, and includes testimony from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s other two friends claiming all three collectively decided to take a backpack and laptop from the bombing suspect's room to help the younger Tsarnaev brother "avoid trouble."

Defense lawyers for the three men have refuted much of the police account without going into specifics. But thanks to court documents filed ahead of today's hearing by Phillipos's defense team, we now have the broad strokes of the 19-year-old's version of events. Here's the Associated Press with the details:

"This case is about a frightened and confused 19-year-old who was subjected to intense questioning and interrogation, without the benefit of counsel, and in the context of one of the worst attacks against the nation," lawyers Derege Demissie and Susan Church wrote. "The weight of the federal government under such circumstances can have a devastatingly crushing effect on the ability of an adolescent to withstand the enormous pressure and respond rationally." ...
Phillipos was at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where all four men had studied, by coincidence on April 18, his lawyers said in the court papers. He had taken a leave of absence in December and hadn’t spoken to Tsarnaev or the other two men for more than two months, they said. "By sheer coincidence and bad luck, he was invited to attend a seminar on campus on April 18," the night the three allegedly went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room, according to the documents. "As such, he did not have much to offer the authorities regarding the investigation of the suspect."

Phillipos faces a maximum of eight years behind bars and a $250,000 fine if convicted of lying to federal investigators. The other two suspects—Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, who were in the United States on student visas from Kazakhstan—face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of conspiring to obstruct justice by concealing and destroying evidence.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter, and read more on Slate about the Boston Marathon bombing.***