63° Good Morning
63° Good Morning
NewsNew York

Katherine Russell, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow, hires Joshua Dratel, NY criminal defense lawyer

Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, wife of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, leaving

Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, wife of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, leaving the house where he lived on Norfolk street in Cambridge, Mass., the day after Tsarnaev, the Boston marathon bomber was killed in a shootout with police. (April 20, 2013) Photo Credit: William Farrington

A criminal defense lawyer hired by the widow of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has represented clients facing terrorism charges, including a man convicted in the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya.

Joshua L. Dratel, based in New York, has been added to the group of attorneys hired by Katherine Russell, according to an e-mail from Amato A. DeLuca, a lawyer in Providence, R.I., who is also representing her.

"Katie plans to continue to meet with investigators, part of a series of meetings over many hours where she has answered questions," DeLuca said Wednesday.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed in a Watertown, Mass., shootout with police on April 19, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, are accused of carrying out the April 15 bombing close to the downtown Boston finish line of the 26.2 mile race.

The younger Tsarnaev, who was arrested on April 19, is charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in the dual bombing that killed three people and hurt more than 200. He is in federal custody.

Russell, 24, had lived with Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Cambridge, Mass. She hasn't been charged with wrongdoing.

Her new counsel is a partner in the Manhattan law firm of Dratel and Mysliwiec PC, which has offices at 2 Wall St., according to its website.

Past President Dratel has 25 years of practice experience and is a past president of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, according to his firm biography.

He previously represented a Brooklyn man, Betim Kaziu, whom a federal court jury in June 2011 found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder overseas and of supporting terrorism.

U.S. prosecutors said Kaziu had taken al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden's words and rebroadcast them as his own and disseminated messages from Anwar al-Awlaki on his MySpace page.

Bin Laden was killed in a U.S. raid on his Pakistani hideout in May 2011. Al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in September of that year.

Dratel said after the verdict against Kaziu that his client should be protected by U.S. law guaranteeing freedom of speech and religion.

He did nothing amounting to conspiracy, didn't own a gun and wasn't trained to fight, the lawyer said. Kaziu has appealed his conviction.


Dratel also represents one of three men convicted for their roles in the 1998 bombing by al-Qaeda of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.

Russell, an artist, dancer and college drop-out from suburban Rhode Island, converted to Islam to marry Tamerlan Tsarnaev three years ago.

Russell lived with Tsarnaev and their 2-year-old daughter in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, apartment, until her husband became a suspect in the bombing.

Since then, she has been living with her parents in their corner-lot, two-story beige home in wooded North Kingstown, R.I.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was injured and captured hours after his brother's death, told interrogators that the pressure-cooker bombs used in the attack were assembled at the his brother's apartment, according to a U.S. official who was briefed on the questioning and asked not to be identified.


Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited Russell's parents' home on April 29 and took a DNA sample from her, according to the U.S. officials briefed on the probe.

Russell hadn't granted public interviews after the attack, and her family issued statements through their lawyer expressing condolences for the bombing victims and Russell's sadness at Tamerlan's death. A swarm of media cars and trucks had been stationed outside Russell's parents' home for days, along with black sedans and police cars.

DeLuca has said Russell knew nothing about the attack before it took place and "was as shocked as anybody" when it happened.

In the past few years, Russell had adopted conservative religious dress, neighbor Dave Mather, in North Kingstown, said last month. She visited her parents often, waving and smiling whenever she spotted neighbors from the cul-de-sac, he said.

Tsarnaev graduated from North Kingstown High School in 2007 and landed in trouble that summer. Warwick police arrested her on July 26 on a misdemeanor shoplifting charge. The case was dismissed Aug. 20, according to records maintained by Rhode Island's Third District Court in Kent County.


Three college friends of the younger bombing suspect were charged with hindering the probe into the attack. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both of Kazakhstan, are accused of throwing away a backpack holding fireworks they found in Tsarnaev's dormitory room after the FBI released images of the brothers identifying them as suspects. Robel Phillipos, a U.S. citizen, is accused of lying to investigators about the visit to the dorm.

Russell was born in Texas on Feb. 6, 1989, according to her marriage certificate dated June 21, 2010. She's the eldest of three daughters of Warren Russell, an emergency medicine physician, and Judith, a registered nurse.

The troubled ethnic Chechen immigrant family into which she married at 21 bore little resemblance to her own. Her existence went from a childhood in a leafy suburb to one in which she shared a cramped apartment with Tamerlan, their daughter, and Tamerlan's parents until their return to Russia.


Russell went to Suffolk University in Boston to study communications, and she met Tsarnaev, a former boxer who in 2009 had been charged with assaulting a live-in girlfriend.

National Public Radio interviewed three college roommates of Russell who described Tsarnaev as controlling, manipulative and angry. The women, whom NPR didn't name, said he called her names such as "slut" and "prostitute" and demanded that she convert to Islam, NPR said.

The two married at a mosque in the Dorchester neighborhood. She adopted Islam, dropped out of college and bore Tamerlan's child, a daughter who's now 2 1/2.

She cut off contact with her college friends after the marriage, according to the NPR report.

She received food stamps and welfare benefits from September 2011 to November 2012, according to a letter from the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance.

DeLuca said she worked as many as 80 hours a week as a home health-care aide, seldom seeing her husband as he cared for their daughter at home.

The Tsarnaev case is U.S. v. Tsarnaev, 13-mj-02106, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

More news