Michael Dukakis, the former governor of Massachusetts and nominee for the Democratic Party during the 1988 presidential race, testified for the defense in federal court in the trial of Robel Phillipos, a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect of last year’s Boston Marathon bombing. Three people were killed and more than 260 injured from the explosions when two strategically placed bombs went off in Copley Square. Police in Boston went on a massive and well-publicized manhunt in search of the two suspects after the bombing.
Prosecutors in the case are charging Robel Phillipos of repeatedly lying to the FBI about his whereabouts in the hours after pictures of Tsarnaev and his brother were released to the public. Robel maintains that he was not in Tsarnaev’s dorm room when two other friends of Tsarnaev came in to remove key evidence that could be used against him. There was a widespread lock down in the city of Boston at the time, as police searched to find the two brothers suspected of the bombing.
Dukakis himself is a friend of the Phillipos family. His wife, Kitty, has worked with the Phillipos’ mother doing social work. According to him, he took Robel to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Dukakis stated that he had called Robel on the phone on Apr. 20, 2013, just days after the bombing. He had done this as a personal favor requested by Robel’s mom, who then gave Robel’s cell phone number to Dukakis. She had been very upset in the aftermath of the bombing and the whirlwind of events that followed, and by that point, she had not heard from her son in days. Dukakis then made the call to try to calm things down a little bit, as things were very chaotic for the Phillipos family at that point.
In testifying in the defense of Tsarnaev’s friend Dukakis was on the stand for approximately 15 minutes, during which time he elaborated on that phone discussion that he had with Robel. He asked him what was going on and if Robel was okay. Robel replied that he was worried, and had been interviewed by the FBI for hours in Worcester. During that interview, Robel claimed that he was very confused, and was not entirely sure what he had said. Although Dukakis himself used to be an attorney before pursuing a political career, he said that Robel never actually asked him for any legal advice or help, and the possibility of being criminally charged in link to either the bombing or the cover up was never discussed.
Phillipos, Tsarnaev’s friend, was visibly emotional on Thursday while Dukakis was on the stand in his defense, explaining to the court that he had known Robel since he was a little boy. Robel was seen wiping away tears from his eyes. Phillipos’ lawyer maintained that the boy was essentially so high on marijuana on the night of the bombing that he could not remember exactly where he was or what he was doing. According to the lawyer, Phillipos did not intentionally lie to FBI agents when he was questioned.
By Charles Bordeau
Photo by Eric Haynes of Mass. Governor’s Office – Flickr