7:17:48 PMDzhokhar Tsarnaev says 'not guilty' 7 times at arraignment
Boston's federal courthouse was blanketed in security and swarming with news media Wednesday as the city braced for the arraignment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -- his first public appearance since the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings.
Outside the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse on the South Boston waterfront, more than a dozen TV news trucks took up every curbside spot. Ribbon-encased sidewalk space, reserved for TV cameras, quickly filled up. Camera operators then scrambled for sidewalk space across the street, where they vied to catch a glimpse of the suspect on his way to court.
Tsarnaev's hearing will be held in a courtroom adjacent to the one in which mobster James "Whitey" Bulger is being tried on 32 racketeering counts. To have two high-profile cases being heard in the same week, however, is extraordinary.
Despite the media crunch, press liaisons were taking everything in stride.
"This is not our first rodeo," said Christina Sterling, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Massachusetts. "We've had (shoebomber) Richard Reid here. It's not our first high-profile case. We know what to do."
Inside, action focused on the fifth floor, where Tsarnaev is to be arraigned at 3:30 p.m. ET Wednesday in Courtroom 10. Earlier this week, all eyes were on Courtroom 11, where Bulger protégé Kevin Weeks delivered dramatic testimony about gruesome murders and exchanged curses with Bulger from the witness stand. Testimony was continuing Wednesday.
In preparation for Tsarnaev, agents from the Department of Homeland
Security entered Courtroom 10 early Wednesday with a sniffing German shepherd in tow. In an empty courtroom down the hall, dozens of uniformed police officers prepared for their afternoon assignments.
Hours before the hearing, Tsarnaev arrived in a four-vehicle motorcade that included a van, a Humvee and a state police car.
Security is normally tight at Boston's federal court, where all visitors must empty their pockets, pass through a metal detector and have their bags scanned. On Wednesday, the major difference is the visible police presence.
Courtroom 10, which seats more than 100, is expected to be packed for Tsarnaev's arraignment. Every bombing victim on the government's list, as well as survivors of the three who were killed, were invited to attend the hearing. More than 260 were injured in the bombing, including at least 15 who lost limbs.
Russian media are keenly interested in the case. Tsarnaev's indictment is seen as a Russia-related news event, according Vladimir Yaduta, chief of the international news desk for the state-run Russian Agency of Legal and Judicial Information.
Tsarnaev is an ethnic Chechen, born in Kyrgystan. He has relatives in Russia, Yaduta said, which is one of several factors contributing to Russian interest.
"Russia has provided information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Dzhokhar's brother, killed in a shootout with police days after the bombings) and his alleged connection to some extremist groups, so there's interest in how this information was handled and if these terrorist acts could have been prevented," Yaduta said. "It's Russia-related, so that's why it draws such an interest in Russia."
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev arrived at John Joseph Moakley Courthouse shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday. There was a motorcade from the federal medical center at Fort Devens in Ayer, Mass.
The crowd of people and media was enormous.
It was the public's first look at Tsarnaev since the dry-docked boat in Watertown back in April 19.
Tsarnaev, his hair long and curly, was fidgety, playing with the splint on his wounded left arm, looking around the courtroom.
He was wearing an orange jumpsuit over a black t-shirt.
Tsarnaev is represented by attorney Judy Clarke, who once defended the Unabomber.
She tried to answer to the charges against him but Judge Marianne Bowler interceded, saying "I would ask him to answer."
Tsarnaev then said not guilty seven times, as the 30 charges were clustered.
His voice was Russian accented English.
After court, Tsarnaev family members left through a back door including a woman carrying a small child
The hearing lasted all of nine minutes. He’s due back in court September 23 at 10 a.m.
Dzhokhar was fidgety throughout the arraignment in front of Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler. Right from beginning, he kept turning his head to catch sight of the gallery behind him. He repeatedly scratched his chin. And when he spoke to plead not guilty to an array of charges connected to the bombing – something he did only after being prompted by the judge, who intervened when one of his lawyers tried to speak for him – his English seemed heavily accented, at odds with the image of the ordinary American teenager who attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in nearby Cambridge. "I would ask him to answer," Judge Bowler directed.
As the charges, which could see Dzhokhar face the death penalty, were read out, he said not guilty a total of seven times.
"He never had that accent," said a friend from the school, declining to give his name as spoke to reporters outside the courtroom. He had come see Dzhokhar in court along with other friends who were high school wrestling team with the suspect. He insisted that not only had Dzhokhar's voice changed but that his demeanour was also different to what he had known. "He didn't fidget," he said.
The 19-year-old's condition had visibly improved since he was caught in Watertown following an unprecedented manhunt that brought the entire Boston metropolitan area to a complete standstill. Then, he was said to be so badly wounded in the earlier shootout with police that he was unable to talk to investigators owing to a reported throat wound.
He was still nursing an injury on his left arm – it was covered in plaster from the elbow down – but otherwise seemed to have recovered since his capture in April.
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