BOSTON – A college friend of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison after he apologized to the victims and their families for not calling police when he recognized photos of Tsarnaev as a suspect.
Dias Kadyrbayev, 21, pleaded guilty last year to obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges for removing items from Tsarnaev's dorm room after recognizing his friend in photos released by the FBI days after the bombing.
Prosecutors say Kadyrbayev knew Tsarnaev was a suspect soon after the FBI released photos of Tsarnaev and his brother on April 18, 2013, three days after the bombing.
At about 8:45 p.m. that night, Kadyrbayev sent Tsarnaev a text message: "U saw the news?"
In a reply text, Tsarnaev said he did, then said, "Better not text me my friend," and added, "Lol."
Kadyrbayev texted back, "u saw urself in there?"
Tsarnaev responded by telling him he could go to his dorm room and "take what's there."
That's when Kadyrbayev went to Tsarnaev's room with two other friends. There, he and another man agreed to remove Tsarnaev's computer and a backpack containing fireworks that had been partially emptied of their explosive powder. Kadyrbayev threw the backpack into a garbage dumpster. It was later recovered at a landfill after federal agents spent two days searching for it.
Kadyrbayev said Tuesday that he had no explanation for his actions.
"I can't find an answer. I really can't believe that I acted so stupidly," he told Judge Douglas Woodlock before his sentence was imposed.
Kadyrbayev had faced up to seven years in prison under a plea agreement with prosecutors. His lawyer had sought a three-year sentence.
He will get credit for the 26 months he's been in custody and will be deported to his native Kazakhstan when his prison term is up.
In a sentencing memo filed in court, prosecutors said Kadyrbayev had the power to help law enforcement identify Tsarnaev and prevent additional violence, possibly including the murder of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier, who was killed by the Tsarnaev brothers as they tried to flee after the FBI released their photos. Dzhokhar's older brother, Tamerlan, died after a shootout with police.
In court Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann said Kadyrbayev showed "callous disregard" for the victims of the bombings and law enforcement when he failed to report Tsarnaev's identity and removed evidence from his dorm room.
"He decided to get rid of the evidence to help his friend," Siegmann said.
Collier's sister had been expected to speak Tuesday, but at the beginning of the hearing, prosecutors informed the judge that she had withdrawn her request. Siegmann quoted from a letter written by Collier's stepfather in which the family said they believe if Kadyrbayev had reported Tsarnaev's identity to authorities, he could possibly have prevented Collier's death.
Kadyrbayev's father, Murat, traveled from Kazakhstan to attend his son's sentencing hearing. He said his son didn't fully understand in the moment how serious his actions were.
"Had he known what he was doing and had he understood what he was doing, we wouldn't be standing here," Murat Kadyrbayev said through a translator outside court.
Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured in the bombing April 15, 2013, near the marathon's finish line.
A jury last month sentenced Tsarnaev to death for the attack. He will be formally sentenced June 24.
The two friends who went to Tsarnaev's dorm room with Kadyrbayev are scheduled to be sentenced Friday.