Two friends of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were sentenced Friday to terms ranging from three years to 42 months in prison for helping Tsarnaev and his older brother after the 2013 attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260.
"I love you guys," Azamat Tazhayakov said to family members in federal court in Boston, just before a judge sentenced him to 42 months behind bars. Tazhayakov was convicted in July of obstruction of justice for removing a backpack containing evidence from Tsarnaev's dorm room after the bombing.
Hours later, in the same courtroom, Robel Phillipos was given three years. Phillipos was convicted in October of two counts of lying to the FBI for acting alongside Tazhayakov to conceal evidence.
During the trial, prosecutors said Tazhayakov had acted after he received a text message from Tsarnaev telling him, Phillipos and a third friend to go to his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and "take what's there."
The third friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy and obstruction of justice for taking and concealing evidence from Tsarnaev’s dorm room. He was sentenced this week to six years in prison.
A jury last month sentenced Tsarnaev, 21, to death for setting off two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April 2013. They rejected defense claims that he had been radicalized by his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police officers.
In the days after the attack, law enforcement officials zeroed in on the three friends.
In court Friday, Judge Douglas P. Woodlock said Tazhayakov "had an opportunity to do the right thing, and he didn't." Tazhayakov will get credit for about two years already served and will be deported to his native Kazakhstan after his sentence is completed.
Tazhayakov, who appeared near tears during the sentencing, apologized for what he had done and said he did not support extremism.
"I know I can't do anything to change what happened, but I regret my decision," he said, apologizing to the "people of Boston" and to his family.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis appealed for leniency for Phillipos, a family friend, and said there was nothing to be gained by putting him in prison.
"Robel is a young man who could and should have a great future ahead of him," Dukakis wrote in a letter to the court. "For the life of me, I can’t understand why justice would be served by incarcerating him."
Phillipos’ defense attorneys said he was high after smoking marijuana and did not intentionally lie to the FBI.
The judge, in passing sentence, said, "I wholly reject the suggestion that this was a no-harm, no-foul kind of offense."
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