The Obama administration is reportedly negotiating a plea bargain that would spare the life of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and that could allow the FBI to continue interrogating the suspect about other terrorist plots.
NBC News reports that federal prosecutors and Tsarnaev's lawyers “have begun very early discussions about a possible deal in which he could avoid the death penalty in return for a full accounting to the FBI of what happened and why as investigators continue working to find those answers for themselves.”
Talk of a legal settlement that would allow Tsarnaev to escape execution comes after high-powered attorney Judy Clarke, a death-penalty specialist from San Diego, was added to Tsarnaev's legal defense team earlier this week. U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler approved Clarke's appointment Monday.
Clarke is credited with helping to secure life sentences for clients facing the death penalty such as Jared Loughner, "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, and 1996 Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph. Clarke's fees will reportedly be paid by U.S. taxpayers.
Federal terrorism charges were laid against Tsarnaev last week after some lawmakers demanded the U.S. citizen be treated as an unlawful enemy combatant. Such a move would have given authorities a freer hand to question Tsarnaev about Islamic terrorist operations.
Tsarnaev had been subject to questioning by the FBI for about 16 hours when Judge Bowler suddenly appeared unannounced in the suspect's hospital room early on April 22. Accompanied by a prosecutor and a public defender, Bowler -- not law enforcement officers -- read Tsarnaev his Miranda rights and the suspect immediately stopped cooperating with the FBI.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Bowler made the right call. That decision was “totally consistent with the laws that we have,” he said Saturday. “The decision to Mirandize was one that the magistrate made,” Holder added.
But a legal expert said Holder is misstating the law, as handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the precedent-setting 1966 ruling, Miranda v. Arizona.
"Eric Holder was dead wrong when he said there was a legal requirement to Mirandize Dzhokhar Tsarnaev," attorney Curt Levey, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Committee for Justice, told this writer in an interview.
"The Supreme Court's ruling in Miranda says only that without a Miranda warning the defendant's statements cannot be used to convict him in a criminal trial. There is no requirement that you be Mirandized. It applies only to the evidence that can be used to convict you."
In other words, had it not been for Bowler taking the extremely unusual step of reading Tsarnaev his rights, the FBI could have continued trying to extract intelligence from the suspect that might have been useful in fending off future Islamic terrorist attacks.
This appears to be a new approach to judicial activism. Bowler seems to have usurped the powers of the executive branch by taking it upon herself to decide on behalf of the American government that assuring the admissibility of evidence gathered from Tsarnaev in court was more important than possibly obtaining more information from him about terrorist networks that could have saved American lives. It is not supposed to be Bowler's decision to make.
Meanwhile, citing unnamed sources, the Daily Mail (UK) reported that the Saudi government warned the U.S. last year that the other Boston Marathon bomber, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed in a shootout with police April 19, was a dangerous extremist. The security alert, which the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Obama administration deny was issued, was separate from warnings about Tsarnaev that Russian intelligence provided to the Obama administration.
After Saudi Arabia rejected Tsarnaev's December 2011 application to enter the kingdom to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi authorities sent a written warning to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the British government last year advising that "something was going to happen in a major U.S. city."
According to the newspaper, the "government-to-government" letter named Tsarnaev specifically but did not indicate when or where an attack would take place. The Saudis acted because they believed U.S. authorities should be intercepting packages intended for Tsarnaev to look for items used to make bombs.
Tsarnaev's tourist visa for Saudi Arabia was rejected a month before he traveled to the Russian republic of Dagestan where he may have received training that allowed him to make and detonate the pressure-cooker bombs that he and his brother Dzhokhar set off at the Boston Marathon on April 15.
The Saudi official rejected the idea that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was trained by al-Qaeda during his absence from the U.S. in 2012. Saudi Arabia's sources in Yemen said Islamic militants knew of Tsarnaev but mocked him, calling him "the volunteer," the unnamed official told the Daily Mail.
"He was a gung-ho, self motivated jihadi who wasn't tasked by a larger group," the official said. Blowing up bombs at the Boston Marathon is "beneath" al-Qaeda, he said. "They don't think like this. This is like a firecracker to them. They want something big."
In a related development, three young men associated with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are now accused of serving as his accomplices following the Boston Marathon bombing.
Under arrest for conspiracy to obstruct justice are Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev of Kazakhstan. Robel Phillipos, a U.S. citizen, is charged with making materially false statements to federal investigators. The trio attended the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth with Tsarnaev, according to FBI affidavits filed in federal court.
Days after the bombing, the three allegedly watched a movie in Tsarnaev's dormitory room and then found a backpack containing fireworks. The gunpowder in the fireworks had been removed.
“Kadyrbayev knew when he saw the empty fireworks that Tsarnaev was involved in the Marathon bombing,” according to one of the affidavits. “Kadyrbayev decided to remove the backpack from the room in order to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble. He decided to take Tsarnaev’s laptop as well because he did not want Tsarnaev’s roommate to think he was stealing or behaving suspiciously by just taking the backpack.”
The three men “collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble,” the document stated.
Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are also alleged to have violated the terms of their student visas.
The Boston Herald reports that the Tsarnaev family, including the two brothers and their parents, took in more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded assistance from 2002 to 2012. The benefits included cash, food stamps, and Section 8 housing subsidies.
“The breadth of the benefits the family was receiving was stunning,” a person with knowledge of documents provided to a state legislative committee told the newspaper.
This means that Massachusetts taxpayers were almost certainly subsidizing the Boston Marathon bombers and their family as the two Tsarnaev brothers immersed themselves in the world of Islamic terrorism.
The state government has given more than 500 documents to the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee in the Massachusetts General Court, the state legislature.
“I can assure members of the public that this committee will actively review every single piece of information we can find because clearly the public has a substantial right to know what benefits, if any, this family or individuals accused of some horrific crimes were receiving,” said committee chairman Rep. David Linsky, a Democrat.
Welfare officials are investigating whether the Tsarnaev family notified the state about Tamerlan's extended stay in Dagestan last year during which he may have interacted with Islamic terrorists.
The extent of the welfare payments made to the family surfaced despite official efforts to keep the information hidden.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat and longtime supporter of welfare-rights groups such as ACORN, had earlier refused to disclose details of the welfare benefits, citing state privacy laws. The real motivation of Patrick, a left-winger often compared to his friend and ally Barack Obama, for failing to hand over the information was more likely that he was trying to defend his state's out-of-control social programs from adverse publicity.
Adding insult to injury, if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev receives a sentence of life imprisonment, America's taxpayers will be paying his bills for the rest of his natural life.
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