Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tsarnaev and Friends: Boston Legal Updates


Judge Strikes Down “Betraying America” Charge as Inflammatory
US District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. at the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse.

A pre-trial hearing for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev took place on June 18, 2014. For the most part, there has been no progress in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev case. SAMs are still in place, including an FBI agent taking notes on every prison visit involving attorneys and family together. At the same time the US government has not yet handed over the GPS of the Tsarnaev vehicle involved in the police chase to the defense. The government is still insisting on total control over the narrative that gets released to the public. The judge declined to penalize the government over media leaks.
However, Judge O’Toole did step in once, telling the US prosecutors that their charge of “Betraying America” was “obnoxious.”
“I agree with the defense position that it was unduly prejudicial,” O’Toole said.
Nevertheless, the prosecution will continue to use “He was comforting our enemies” as their main argument in the trial. It appears that pushing the issue of Tsarnaev’s interest in Islamic causes will be central to their case of explaining his motive, which will be the core of the government case for death penalty.
Azamat Tazhayakov Rejects Plea Deal
Tazhayakov’s lawyer, Matthew Myers, told reporters after a pretrial hearing on June 23, 2014 that prosecutors offered him a deal to plead to reduced charges but he turned it down. Myers would not disclose the terms of the offer.
“He knows he’s not guilty,” Myers said of Tazhayakov. “He’s confident.”
Nicholas Wooldridge, another lawyer representing Tazhayakov, said the defense is hopeful of finding an impartial jury.
“Even the average juror in Boston will be shocked by the lack of evidence,” he said.
At least 600 potential jurors for Tazhayakov’s case will be given screening questionnaires to fill out, in a defense attempt to weed out people with anti-Muslim prejudice and other factors. The final version of the questionnaire will be agreed upon by both sides.
Defense lawyers argued Monday that Tazhayakov and many other university students have been unfairly targeted because of guilt by association.
Federal prosecutors are facing the possibility that if the statements he made to the FBI while detained but not quite arrested were a result of intimidation, they could be thrown out of court and the entire case could be dismissed.
Khairullozhon Matanov Denied Bail
Judge Marianne Bowler arrived ten minutes late and then began a hearing for a young man from Kyrgyzstan on June 23, 2014 at 2:30pm with the words: “Well, Mr. Hayden, we are here at your request.”
Hayden’s client, Khair Matanov was the Quincy cab driver and friend of the Tsarnaevs who is accused of lying to the government about whether he drove his friends to the restaurant or if he met them at the restaurant.
At the last hearing, his government appointed attorney said “no contest” to incarceration due to his client being jobless and having nowhere to go. However, since more than one person offered their home to Matanov the lawyer actually then  went out of his way to look into the possibility. Hayden even found a job lead for the young man.
“Usually people have friends or family in the area, but [Matanov] didn’t have that resource, so it was up to me,” Hayden said.
Hayden argued that his client cooperated with FBI over extended period and met with them five times. The government watched his every move for one year and still haven’t found him doing anything terrorism related.
The government was forced to concede that Matanov is not “dangerous.” This is huge. The government only argued that he was a flight risk because he had so many relatives overseas. They further argued that because he worked 15-18 hours a day and sent all his money to his family, including paying for his brother’s heart surgery, this means there are many people who owe him a favor and would therefore harbor him. On this basis, Judge Bowler ruled in favor of his further detainment as a flight risk.
Even though bail was denied, this hearing was a very successful maneuver because it presented the defense with an opportunity to clarify in more detail about the money wire transfers and phones and the defense alibis. In the previous hearing, the FBI testimony dominated, but in this hearing, the defense did most of the talking. Khair’s alibi sounds reasonable. He sent money under a false name for tax purposes, but the money was earned legally. He sent $6500 to his grandfather, and even helped out a friend in Virginia who had lost his job.
To which Bowler responded, “before or after tax?” regarding the $71,000 total.
Hayden clarified beyond the shadow of a doubt that the government was was making innuendos regarding the money transfers being related to terrorism.
Hayden then argued that Matanov does not deserve to be locked up in solitary confinement for selling cell phones to Russia. Matanov regularly sold cell phones to Russia. The government admitted that the cell phones were not used for any terrorism related activity.
Matanov was the first person to go to the police to identify the Tsarnaevs after the FBI sent out their alert, according to the defense.

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