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Robel Phillips, friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, seeks release from jail

This courtroom sketch shows defendant Robel Phillipos appearing

This courtroom sketch shows defendant Robel Phillipos appearing in front of Federal Magistrate Marianne Bowler at the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston, Mass. (May 1, 2013) Credit: AP

BOSTON -- Lawyers for a man charged with lying to authorities about evidence related to the Boston Marathon bombings filed court papers Saturday proclaiming his innocence and calling on a judge to release him from jail.

Robel Phillipos, 19, of Cambridge, Mass., was charged Wednesday, accused of lying when he told investigators he did not go into surviving bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm room at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and did not remember whether anything had been removed.

"This case is about a frightened and confused 19-year-old who was subjected to intense questioning and interrogation, without the benefit of counsel, and in the context of one of the worst attacks against the nation," defense lawyers Derege Demissie and Susan Church wrote in the court documents.

"The weight of the federal government under such circumstances can have a devastatingly crushing effect on the ability of an adolescent to withstand the enormous pressure and respond rationally," they said.

Two of Phillipos' college friends, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both 19, were also arrested and charged with willfully conspiring to commit an offense against the United States by destroying or concealing items to impede or influence a criminal investigation.

Authorities said those men tried to hide Tsarnaev's laptop and backpack in an effort to conceal his role in the April 15 attacks.

Lawyers for Phillipos argued in the court papers that their client's presence on campus the day of the alleged evidence-tossing was a coincidence and that it had been more than two months since he had spoken to Tsarnaev or the other two men.

The documents were accompanied by multiple statements of support by Phillipos' friends, relatives and teachers.

Phillipos is next scheduled to appear in federal court on Monday. He faces up to 8 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

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