Boston Bombing Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Indicted

Dzhokar Tsarnaev

Accused Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been hit with a 30 count Federal Indictment that makes clear the U.S. Attorney’s theory about what motivated Tsarnaev and his brother to set off their bombs at the Marathon’s Finish Line on April 15th:

Boston Marathon bombings suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev faces a 30-count indictment by a federal grand jury that charges him with using weapons of mass destruction and killing four people.

The indictment alleges that Tsarnaev, who had been inspired by Al Qaeda publications, left a confession in the boat where he was captured in a Watertown back yard, saying, “I don’t like killing innocent people” but it was justified because of US government actions abroad.

“The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians. …. I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished. … We Muslims are one body, you hurt one, you hurt us all,” Tsarnaev allegedly wrote. “Stop killing our innocent people, we will stop.”

Seventeen of the charges carry the possibility of the death penalty. The others carry the possibility of as much as life in prison, prosecutors said in a statement.


The indictment alleges that sometime before the bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, downloaded several different pieces of extremist Islamic propaganda from the Internet, including one that directed Muslims not to give their allegiances to governments that invade Muslim lands and another by Anwar al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki is the American citizen who became a senior operative in Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen and was killed in a 2011 drone strike.

At an afternoon press conference, US Attorney Carmen J. Ortiz today summarized the charges against Tsarnaev, and then added that she has met with relatives of those slain and those who were wounded during the terror attack.

“Their strength is extraordinary and we will do everything that we can to pursue justice not only on their behalf, but on the behalf of all us,” Ortiz said.

Also attending the press conference were officials from the Middlesex and Suffolk district attorney’s office, and the leaders of the Boston and Massachusetts State Police and the Boston office of the FBI.

The charges include: use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death; bombing of a place of public use resulting in death, malicious destruction of property resulting in death, and conspiring to do those crimes. The charges also include use of a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime and carjacking resulting in serious injury, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Tsarnaev learned how to make the pressure cooker bombs used in the bombings from Volume 1 of a magazine called “Inspire,” the indictment alleged.

He also downloaded a book called, “Jihad and the Effects on Intention Upon It.” The indictment said the book “glorifies martyrdom in the service of violent Jihad.”

The indictment alleges that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, purchased 48 mortars from Phanton Fireworks in Seabrook, N.H., containing approximately eight pounds of explosive powder. The two brothers allegedly went to Manchester, N.H., on March 20 where they rented two 9mm handguns and fired off some 200 rounds at the range.

Tsarnaev also faces indictments from two state court jurisdictions for crimes committed there, but it’s likely that the Federal charges will take priority in terms of  which charges get tried first. If Tsarnaev is convicted, it’s also likely that the state jurisdictions will withhold acting until his Federal appeals are exhausted, and indeed may not be acted upon at all if he is sentenced to die. In any case, depending on how the pre-trial proceedings go, it’s entirely possible that this case could be going to trial within a year or less. The alternative, of course, is that Tsarnaev ends up pleading out to avoid the death penalty, but those negotiations are likely to take a considerable amount of time assuming they take place at all.

Here’s the indictment itself:

United States v. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Indictment by dmataconis

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.