BOSTON (AP) — A judge on Tuesday rejected a request to move the trial of a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Robel Phillipos, 21, of Cambridge, is charged with lying to authorities investigating the bombing.
Prosecutors say he was in Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth several days after the attack, when two other friends decided to remove Tsarnaev’s backpack, laptop computer and other evidence.
Phillipos is accused of lying about being present when the items were removed.
Lawyers for Phillipos had again asked to move the trial from Boston to Springfield; Providence, Rhode Island; or Portland, Maine. The defense said Phillipos can’t get a fair trial in Boston because of prejudicial pretrial publicity. They say he has been described in media reports as an “assumed ally” of Tsarnaev.
Phillipos and Tsarnaev were classmates at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School before becoming students at UMass-Dartmouth.
Judge Douglas Woodlock denied the change-of-venue request — the second one filed by the defense — during a final pre-trial hearing.
“I’m satisfied that we’ll be able to get a fair and impartial jury in this case,” Woodlock said.
Jury selection is set to begin Monday in U.S. District Court. Opening statements are scheduled for Oct. 6.
Attorney Susan Church said Phillipos has been unfairly “lumped in” with the two other Tsarnaev friends who removed the backpack and other things from the dorm room and that the evidence will show Phillipos “knew nothing about the backpack.” Dias Kadyrbayev pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and conspiracy, while Azamat Tazhayakov was convicted by a jury of identical charges.
Church and co-counsel Derege Demissie said in a statement after the hearing that Phillipos and his family have strong support from people who know him.
“Robel Phillipos was born in Boston and grew up in this area, and so he hopes that despite the Judge’s ruling and the extensive publicity surrounding the case, the people of Massachusetts will give him a fair and impartial trial,” the defense attorneys said. “Robel’s friends, teachers, and priests support him because they know who Robel is and recognize that what happened to him in this case, could happen to anyone.”
Twin bombs placed near the finish line of the 2013 marathon killed three people and injured more than 260. Tsarnaev, 21, is scheduled to go on trial in November and could face the death penalty if convicted. He also has asked to move his trial, preferably to Washington, D.C.