By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times
BOSTON — Despite the presence of an FBI agent in the room, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev made a “statement to his detriment” while his sister was visiting him in prison, federal prosecutors say.
Prosecutors revealed the incident in a filing Friday that argued that special rules governing Tsarnaev’s prison conditions should remain in place. The rules, called special administrative measures, limit who can communicate with Tsarnaev, allows the government to be present while certain people visit him, and place restrictions on who his defense team can share information with. Such measures are sometimes used in terrorism cases in which authorities believe that the defendant could cause bodily injury to others through his contact with others.
Tsarnaev is accused of carrying out the twin April 15, 2013, bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon that killed three and wounded 260. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has said he will seek the death penalty for Tsarnaev, whose trial will begin Nov. 3.
In the filing, prosecutors argue that the restrictions are necessary to protect people against the risk of violence or terrorism.
Government prosecutors had previously submitted briefs in which they argued that writings found in the Watertown, Mass., boat where Tsarnaev took refuge show “an avowed wish to incite others to engage in violent jihad.”
Tsarnaev’s attorneys have argued that the measures are “unlawful and unwarranted” and violate his rights. The measures “gravely impair the ability of counsel to provide effective assistance to Mr. Tsarnaev,” the defense argued in court filings.
Tsarnaev has had two social visits since being in prison, Friday’s filing said. As part of the measures, an FBI agent was present during these visits. During the second visit, from Tsarnaev’s sisters, an investigator for the defense team was also present. At one point during the visit, the investigator began explaining the rationale between the special measures to Tsanaev’s sister, the filing said. Part of her comment regarded restrictions on providing information to third parties outside of prison, and Tsarnaev “made a comment in return,” the filing said.
The government believes that Tsarnaev’s lawyers have moved to lift the special administrative measures in part because of that comment.
“The motion has nothing to do with the (special measures) and everything to do with the fact that Tsarnaev, despite the presence of an FBI agent and an employee of the federal public defender, was unable to temper his remarks and made a statement to his detriment which was overhead by the agent,” the filing said.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers say their request to lift the measures has nothing to do with his comment. They also requested that he be allowed to meet with visitors without law enforcement present. The government also argued against this request.
“The suggestion that the defense and visitors be allowed to meet with Tsarnaev without monitoring by law enforcement would, in effect, allow Tsarnaev far greater freedom than the general population of inmates who are subject to the (Bureau of Prisons) regulations,” the government said.
Also late Friday, defense lawyers asked that multiple charges against Tsarnaev be dismissed, arguing that the number of charges “appears designed to put a thumb on the scales of justice in favor of the death penalty.” Tsarnaev is facing 30 federal charges, more than half of which carry the death penalty.
Preparations are being made for this year’s Boston Marathon, which will be held April 21. The Boston Athletic Association said earlier this week that backpacks and bags would be banned from the race’s starting and finish lines and along the 26.2-mile course.