Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (AP)
[Updated at 7:05 p.m. ET]
Terror suspect Dzhokhar "Jahar" Tsarnaev was charged on Monday with two federal counts of using a weapon of mass destruction to kill, injure and cause widespread damage at the Boston Marathon a week ago. If convicted, the 19-year-old could face the death penalty.
Three people were killed and more than 200 others wounded when two powerful homemade bombs exploded near the race’s finish line.
The bed-ridden Tsarnaev was informed of the charges and read his rights in his hospital room Monday morning. The college student is in serious condition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he is under heavy police guard.
Tsarnaev, who is sedated and unable to speak, suffered apparent gunshot wounds to the head, neck, hand and legs during firefights with police before his capture Friday night, authorities said. His older brother Tamerlan Tsanraev, who investigators say was part of the terror attack, died in a firefight with police during their escape attempt.
In a 10-page criminal complaint against Dzhokhar, an FBI agent says investigators have overwhelming photographic evidence showing the brothers placing two backpack bombs in the crowd at the race finish.
A large pyrotechnic and clothing Dzhokhar wore during the terror attack were later found in his dorm room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, according to the charges.
The complaint sheds no light on a motive for the attack. Miriam Conrad, Dzhokhar's federal public defender, asked the court to also appoint two more attorneys who are, “learned in the law applicable to capital cases.”
Investigators say the Tsarnaev brothers began preparing for an apparent escape attempt just hours after the FBI sought the public’s help by releasing photos of them at the bombing scene.
Shortly before midnight Thursday, one of the brothers carjacked a man at gunpoint, according to the criminal complaint.
“Did you hear about the Boston explosion?” the complaint alleges the carjacker said. “I did that.”
The complaint goes on to allege that the brothers threw improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at patrol officers who spotted them in the stolen car and gave chase. Bomb-making materials similar to what was recovered in the marathon aftermath were later found inside the abandoned getaway car, according to the charges.
“The presumption of innocence is pretty tough in this case,” said Jimmy Ardoin, a veteran criminal defense attorney who read the criminal complaint at the request of Yahoo News.
“On its face, it seems pretty strong,” Ardoin said. “Although once you get into court, you never know what will be admitted into evidence and what won’t.
A probable cause hearing is scheduled for May 30. Despite calls from some Republicans to try Dzhokhar in a military court like a war criminal, White House press secretary Jay Carney said he would not be held as an enemy combatant. It is not known if Boston authorities will file cases against him in state court as well.
The federal government has not revealed if it will seek the death penalty. But in a statement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “We will hold those who are responsible for these heinous acts accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Thanks to the valor of state and local police, the dedication of federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, and the vigilance of members of the public, we’ve once again shown that those who target innocent Americans and attempt to terrorize our cities will not escape from justice,” Holder said.
The Tsarnaev brothers, who were born in the former Russian territory known as Kyrgyzstan and are of Chechen descent, lived in Cambridge, Mass., for several years. Dzhokhar became a naturalized American citizen last year.
According to investigators, the carjack victim told police that the brothers spoke to one another in a foreign language while he was held hostage. The victim managed to escape on foot when the brothers got out of the car at a gas station.
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