Bombing Suspect Charged, Could Face Death Penalty

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  • BOSTON (AP) — A seriously wounded Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged in his hospital room Monday with bombing the Boston Marathon in a plot with his older brother and could get the death penalty for the attack that killed three people.

    Tsarnaev, 19, was charged by federal prosecutors with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction — a bomb — to kill.

    The criminal complaint containing the allegations shed no light on the motive. But it gave a detailed sequence of events and cited surveillance-camera images of Tsarnaev dropping off a knapsack with one of the bombs and using a cellphone, perhaps to coordinate or detonate the blasts.

    The two pressure-cooker bombs sprayed shrapnel into the crowd at the finish line last Monday. Moore than 200 people were wounded, and the dead included an 8-year-old boy.

    The Massachusetts college student was listed in serious but stable condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the throat and other injuries. His brother, Tamerlan, 26, died last week in a fierce gunbattle with police.

    “Although our investigation is ongoing, today’s charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston and for our country,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

    The charges carry the death penalty or a prison sentence of up to life.

    “He has what’s coming to him,” a wounded Kaitlynn Cates said from her hospital room. She was at the finish line when the first blast knocked her off her feet, and she suffered an injury to her lower leg.

    In outlining the evidence against him in court papers, the FBI said Tsarnaev was seen on surveillance cameras putting a knapsack down on the ground near the site of the second blast and then manipulating a cellphone and lifting it to his ear.

    Seconds later, the first explosion went off about a block down the street and spread fear and confusion through the crowd. But Tsarnaev — unlike nearly everyone around him — looked calm and quickly walked away, the FBI said.

    Just 10 seconds or so later, the second blast occurred where he had left the knapsack, the FBI said.

    The FBI did not make it clear whether authorities believe he used his cellphone to detonate one or both of the bombs or whether he was talking to someone.

    The court papers also said that during the long night of crime Thursday and Friday that led to the older brother’s death and the younger one’s capture, one of the Tsarnaev brothers told a carjacking victim: “Did you hear about the Boston explosion? I did that.”

    The brothers are ethnic Chechens from Russia who have lived in the U.S. for about a decade. Investigators are focusing on a trip the older brother made last year to Chechnya and Dagestan, in a region of Russia that has become a hotbed of separatist politics and Islamic extremism.

    In addition to the federal charges, the younger Tsarnaev brother is also likely to face state charges in connection with the shooting death of an MIT police officer.

    The Obama administration said it had no choice but to prosecute Tsarnaev in the federal court system. Some politicians had suggested he be tried as an enemy combatant in front of a military tribunal, where defendants are denied some of the usual U.S. constitutional protections.

    But Tsarnaev is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and under U.S. law, American citizens cannot be tried by military tribunals, White House spokesman Jay Carney said. Carney said that since 9/11, the federal court system has been used to convict and imprison hundreds of terrorists.

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