Is a defendant collateral damage in the prosecution of the Boston bombing case?
By Bill Marcus, Commentary
Published 2:57 pm, Saturday, July 12, 2014
The Times Union, Albany, NY
But Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, who is charged with obstructing the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing, didn’t grow up watching American cop shows. He’s Kazak.
Standing outside the Federal Courthouse in Boston, in translated Russian, his dad, praising the American judicial system, explained:
“I told him. I asked him, ‘Azamat, are you guilty? He said, ‘No.” I said, ‘Then completely cooperate with the authorities.’ And as a Kazak son, he listened to his father. He told everything. Everything he could remember, everything that (alleged Boston Marathon bomber) Dzhokhar (Tsarnaev) said, even from a month before, he told everything.”
Now, wouldn’t you know it, the government is using the four hours of Azamat’s unrecorded cooperation with the FBI against him in a case that could put him away for 20 years.
The night they strip searched and interrogated him, Tazhayakov, an international student with limited English proficiency, signed away his rights, probably the same way you or I would click “accept” on a trusted website. But nobody asked him if he knew what he was doing. He did search his iPhone for terms associated with Miranda.
His FBI inquisitor, Sara Wood, reported to work in New York at 6:30 a.m. that day. Before lunch she was on a plane to Boston. As Assistant Weapons of Mass Destruction coordinator for the FBI’s New York office, her everyday job for the past 14 years has been to worry about every possible nuclear, chemical, biological and God-knows what other attacks a terrorist could develop to wreak havoc on the U.S.
In court, Wood is the personification of American anxiety and post 9-11 paranoia. Think: a Guantanamo-era Joe Friday. I never want to get in this woman’s way.
So no-nonsense FBI Special Agent Wood was up against a band of idiot kids. Nobody knew who the bomber was. Tazhayakov tells her “he” took the alleged bomber’s backpack containing fireworks missing their explosive powder, a jar of Vaseline, a laptop and a bag of marijuana, or did he say “they” took it? She can’t remember. There’s no tape of the interrogation. Pronouns are tough when you don’t speak English as a first language.
But why did the three friends go to the bombing’s suspect’s dorm room to get his stuff? Basically, as the website Gawker points out, they were there to pick up his weed. The cases against them “at least seem intended to pressure the three young men into becoming more cooperative witnesses for the prosecution in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial, which is slated for this coming November.”
The girlfriend of Tazhayakov’s roommate says Tazhayakov never touched the backpack. She wanted it gone and her boyfriend complied. “A victim of love,” said Tazhayakov’s dad.
Government witnesses seem to be doing everything to help Tazhayakov’s defense.
When they’re not absolving him of intent they are saying nice things. One characterized the defendant as a ‘momma’s boy’. His father says his first-born calls home to Kazakhstan every night.
Azamat’s father, not unlike any other dad of a 20-year-old, says he wishes his son chose his friends more carefully. “I came with the black hair,” he said through his translator, a Brooklyn attorney with an office on Avenue Z, “now they getting much whiter.”
But it could get worse for the prosecution. The judge has yet to say if Tazhayakov’s interrogation was illegal. If he does, goodbye government case.
As an oil man who is also a leading member of the ruling party in the parliament of his home province (a post he had to quit because being in the States for the trial forced him to miss too many meetings), Azamat’s dad understands the universality of all politics being local and all kids being idiots.
But when reporters asked him to consider that if his son had come forward sooner perhaps the life of the MIT cop who was allegedly killed by the brothers Tsarnaev could have been spared, he has no idea what they were talking about any more than the reporters could put themselves in the shoes of a Central Asian.
The connections are missed. The cultures, mutually misunderstood. Meanwhile, the search for truth continues in a Boston courtroom as a boy’s future hangs in the balance.
Link to original article here