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US charges against Boston bombing suspect allow for death penalty (+video)

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Boston Marathon bombing suspect, was charged Monday with using an IED to destroy lives and property, a federal crime that carries a potential death sentence. The affidavit outlines why the FBI believes it has the right man.

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The affidavit continues: “At approximately 2:45 p.m., Bomber Two can be seen detaching himself from the crowd and walking east on Boylston Street toward the Marathon finishing line. He appears to have the thumb of his right hand hooked under the strap of his knapsack and a cell phone in his left hand. Approximately 15 seconds later, he can be seen stopping directly in front of the Forum Restaurant and standing near the metal barrier among numerous spectators, with his back to the camera, facing the runners.”

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The FBI agent who filed the affidavit, Daniel Genck, then uses an unusual word in his description of the unfolding drama. That word is “apparently.”

The affidavit continues: “He [Bomber Two] then can be seen apparently slipping his knapsack onto the ground. A photograph taken from the opposite side of the street shows the knapsack on the ground at Bomber Two's feet.”

The agent notes that video from the Forum Restaurant shows that Bomber Two stood in the same spot for approximately four minutes. He occasionally looked at his cell phone.

“Approximately 30 seconds before the first explosion, he lifts his phone to his ear as if he is speaking on his cell phone, and keeps it there for approximately18 seconds. A few seconds after he finishes the call, the large crowd of people around him can be seen reacting to the first explosion. Virtually every head turns to the east (towards the finish line) and stares in that direction in apparent bewilderment and alarm.”

Genck’s affidavit notes that Bomber Two was the only person in front of the restaurant who appears calm.

“He glances to the east and then calmly but rapidly begins moving to the west, away from the direction of the finish line. He walks away without his knapsack, having left it on the ground where he had been standing. Approximately 10 seconds later, an explosion occurs in the location where Bomber Two had placed his knapsack.”

In addition to the bombing, the affidavit also details key portions of events on Thursday and Friday when the two men appeared to be in the midst of a desperate but unsuccessful attempt to flee Boston.

The formal charge against Tsarnaev is using a weapon of mass destruction. Although those are the words in the applicable statute, the law covers improvised explosive devices (IEDs) such as those allegedly used at the Boston Marathon. It does not mean that Tsarnaev and his brother were attempting to destroy the entire city.

The charges were filed as officials acknowledged that Tsarnaev was responding to inquiries from federal agents although he cannot talk and is still listed in serious condition in a Boston hospital.

The suspect is described as unable to verbally communicate after sustaining injuries to his throat and elsewhere during the massive manhunt on Thursday and Friday. But a special interrogation team is said to have started efforts to elicit key information about the bombing and the two brothers at the center of the alleged plot.

Officials are relying on a public safety exception to the usual rule that criminal suspects be advised of their right to consult a lawyer and their right to remain silent during police questioning.

The so-called Miranda warnings are intended to ensure that any statements made by a suspect are made knowingly and without coercion and, thus, may be admitted as evidence against the suspect in an eventual court case.

But that is not the only reason US officials want and need information from Tsarnaev. Federal officials are seeking critical intelligence information from him. They want to know if there are accomplices who might seek to carry out additional bombings. They also want to know if the Tsarnaev brothers were working in concert with any organized group in the US or overseas.

The public safety exemption as advocated by the Obama administration would allow such intelligence gathering without a Miranda warning, and might even allow the information to be used as evidence in an eventual trial.


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Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

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