Quincy man pleads innocent to impeding Boston Marathon bombing probe

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BOSTON – He’s not accused of taking part in the deadly Boston Marathon attacks, but the 23-year-old Quincy man who was friends with the alleged bombers was asked by the FBI to stay away from two large events in Boston within the past year. 

The U.S. Attorney’s office said Wednesday that investigators kept tabs on Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, for the past year, following his every move and requesting that he avoid the July Fourth celebration in Boston last year and the Boston Marathon race in April.


“For obvious reasons, the city was on edge,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Garland said for the reasoning behind the FBI’s requests.


Matanov, a former Quincy College student who worked as a cab driver in Braintree for the past two years, pleaded innocent Wednesday in Boston federal court to charges that he impeded the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings by lying to police and destroying electronic records on his computer.


Matanov was friends with Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the brothers accused of setting off two bombs at the marathon finish line last year, killing three people and injuring 260 more, and fatally shooting MIT police officer Sean Collier, who was once a part-time officer in Hull.


Prosecutors said Matanov called Tamerlan about 40 minutes after the bombings and met the brothers for dinner that same night.


Matanov, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan and in the U.S. legally, wore an orange jumpsuit from the Plymouth County Correctional Facility at Wednesday’s arraignment and detention hearing. Edward Hayden, Matanov’s attorney, didn’t fight the U.S. Attorney’s effort to keep his client locked up without bail, saying Matanov would have nowhere to live if he made bail.


Matanov had lived in an apartment building on Common Street in West Quincy until last Friday, when Quincy police and FBI agents in body armor stormed the building around 5 a.m. to arrest him.


“There’s no place for him to go and to live around here,” Hayden said.


During Wednesday’s hearing, the prosecution called one witness to the stand, FBI agent Timothy McElroy, who was involved in the year-long surveillance of Matanov. McElroy said the surveillance was overt, meaning they wanted him to know he was being followed.


A source with knowledge of the case told The Patriot Ledger last week that investigators used a drone-like aircraft to track Matanov in Quincy last spring. Ward 4 City Councilor Brian Palmucci, who represents West Quincy, has since confirmed that the aircraft was directly linked to the Matanov probe..


McElroy said Matanov knew he was being followed by the FBI. Matanov approached one of the officers last May and talked to him while in Boston for a dentist appointment, McElroy said. During its surveillance, the FBI communicated with Matanov through an attorney and asked that he not attend the July Fourth celebration on the Esplanade and the Boston Marathon this past Patriots Day.

Matanov adhered to the FBI’s requests and didn’t attend either event, both of which involved a heavy police presence in the wake of the marathon bombings. After Wednesday’s hearing, Hayden said Matanov didn’t plan on attending the events anyway. 

Matanov is charged with one count of destroying, altering, and falsifying documents in a federal investigation and three counts of lying in a federal terrorism investigation. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison for destruction of evidence and eight years for each count of lying to investigators. All four counts also carry up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.


Matanov’s next hearing is July 15 at 2 p.m. District Judge William G. Young will preside over the trial.


Matanov is one of four friends of one or both of the Tsarnaev brothers facing federal charges for allegedly impeding the marathon investigation. Two of Dzhokhar’s friends at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both Kazakhstan nationals, are charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy for allegedly removing Tsarnaev’s laptop computer and a backpack containing fireworks from his dorm room. Another college friend of Dzhokhar’s, Robel Phillipos, of Cambridge, is charged with lying to authorities while he was being questioned.


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