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By Richard A. Serrano, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted Monday of hindering the FBI investigation into the April 2013 blast by hiding Tsarnaev’s backpack from authorities.

Azamat Tazhayakov, convicted in federal court on Boston, now faces up to 20 years in prison and becomes the first of three Tsarnaev friends to be tried in cases spawned from the marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others. He was acquitted of separate charges of trying to dispose of Tsarnaev’s laptop computer.

Jurors reached the split verdict after prosecutors accused Tazhayakov of deliberately removing the backpack from Tsarnaev’s college dorm room after Tsarnaev sent him computer messages telling him to dispose of some of his belongings. Prosecutors also noted that after the bombings, Tazhayakov repeatedly followed the bombing case on his computer, even as federal agents were trying to locate Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

The backpack contained fireworks, a jar of Vaseline, a thumb drive, and other items, and Tazhayakov and a friend took it to their apartment in nearby New Bedford, Mass.

But defense lawyers for Tazhayakov said it was the other friend who actually removed the backpack and that Tazhayakov were merely there with him in the Tsarnaev dorm room. The defense attorneys described Tazhayakov as a “good kid” and a “mama’s boy.”

Still to be tried are the other friends — Dias Kadyrbayev and Robel Phillipos. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is scheduled to stand trial in November in the bombing. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police.

AFP Photo / Stan Honda

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