The Boston Marathon bomber’s acquaintance could face 20 years in prison for deleting files, setting a dangerous precedent for all Americans.
Next week, a 24-year-old man who knew Boston Marathon bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev is scheduled to appear in U.S. Federal Court for sentencing on obstruction of justice charges related to the 2013 attacks.
Khairullozhon Matanov, a former taxi driver, did not participate in or have any prior knowledge of the bombings, according to U.S. authorities.
What could land him 20 more years in prison — where he has been since his arrest — are the charges that he deleted video files from his computer and cleared his browser history in the days following the attacks.
A Grand Jury indictment issued on May 29, 2014, states that Matanov “deleted a large amount of information from his Google Chrome Internet cache” following the bombing, including “references to the video of the suspected bombers [later identified as the Tsarnaevs],” “two of the photographs of the bombers released at approximately the same time,” and “a photograph of Officer Sean Collier, who had been allegedly killed by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.”
According to the indictment, the FBI was able to restore some of the deleted information from Matanov’s computer in “an ongoing forensic review.”
“The information that Matanov deleted included his computer’s Internet cache, which his default Internet browser, Google Chrome, used to speed up the program’s operation by storing some Internet information,” it reads. “Matanov deleted his Google Chrome activity selectively, leaving behind Google Chrome activity from other days during the week of April 15, 2013.”
As a result of this alleged behaviour, Matanov was charged with one count of “Destruction, Alteration, and Falsification of Records, Documents, and a Tangible Object in a Federal Investigation” — which carries with it a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Three more counts stemming from accusations that he lied to investigators about his activities and relationship with the Tsarnaev brothers carry a sentence of up to eight years in prison each.
While he maintains his innocence, Matanov pleaded guilty to all charges against him earlier this year in hopes that U.S. District Judge William G. Young will accept his plea agreement for a lesser sentence of 30 months.