A Massachusetts man who shared the accused Boston Marathon bombers’ “philosophical justification for violence” obstructed the investigation into the April 15, 2013 attack, federal prosecutors said.
Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, was charged with destroying, altering and falsifying records, documents and “tangible objects” in a federal investigation. He was also charged with making false statements to the FBI.
Matanov allegedly deleted items from his computer that connected him to Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the siblings charged with dropping two backpacks containing pressure cooker bombs in the crowd near the marathon finish line. Matanov was arrested in his home at approximately 6 a.m. without incident, law enforcement sources said. The FBI had been monitoring him for the better part of a year.
An attorney for Matanov, Ed Hayden, told reporters today his client plans to plead not guilty.
"Nothing he did or said was intended to mislead the FBI," Hayden said, "and from what I know now, it didn't."
Matanov is from Kyrgyzstan and has been living legally in Quincy, Mass. since 2010, making his living as a taxi driver. He befriended Tamerlan Tsarnaev and, according to the indictment, “participated in a variety of activities” with him, including “discussing religious topics and hiking up a New Hampshire mountain in order to train like and praise the mujahedeen.” There is no evidence he participated in the marathon attack or knew about it in advance.
According to the indictment, 40 minutes after the bombings Matanov invited Tamerlan Tsarnaev to dinner. Matanov and the brothers ate at a restaurant and discussed the bombings over their meal. That same week he talked to Tamerlan by phone and visited him at his home in Cambridge.
After the FBI published photographs of the brothers, at the time identified as Suspect #1 and Suspect #2, Matanov went to a local police station, informed officers he knew the Tsarnaevs, but allegedly left out important details about the extent of their relationship and his knowledge of their views. Prosecutors said he also deleted “a large amount of information from his computer” about the Tsarnaevs, the bombings and calls to violence.
He even rang Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s cell phone while he was on the run during a massive manhunt, the indictment says. Matanov is criminally charged now with lying to investigators, getting rid of cell phones he used to call the Tsarnaev’s repeatedly, and erasing files on his computer that linked him to militant views, the indictment states.
In his initial court appearance today, Manatov told the court he has no family in the U.S. and his parents are very ill in Kyrgyzstan.
He also said he has never been arrested and does not have a criminal record. Both an FBI official and an initial public records search by ABC News indicated that Manatov doesn’t have a record.
Hayden told reporters after the hearing that his client was “very frightened” outside of court. Manatov is scheduled to be back in court early next month for a bail hearing.
Michele McPhee is a freelance reporter based in Boston and a frequent contributor to ABC News.