By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - A citizen of Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to federal investigators about his ties to the two ethnic Chechen men accused of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombing.
Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, faces one criminal count of destroying records and three counts of lying to officials in a terrorism investigation. He is not charged with taking part in the April 15, 2013, attack, which killed three people and injured more than 260.
Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler ordered Matanov held until trial, after his attorney noted that it was unclear how the man would support himself after losing his job as a taxi driver following his arrest. She left open the option for his lawyer to seek his pretrial release if he were to find living arrangements.
An FBI agent who had worked on his case acknowledged under cross-examination by defense attorney Edward Hayden that Matanov, who lived in Quincy, Massachusetts, had shown up at a local police station the morning of April 19, 2013, while a manhunt was under way for suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, to identify the man, but that the FBI had not interviewed him until the next day.
Hayden noted that charging papers pointed out that Matanov had dinner with the suspected bombers, Dzhokhar and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the night of the attack and discussed the incident. Hayden asked FBI Special Agent Timothy McElroy under cross-examination if there was any evidence that Matanov at the time had suspected the Tsarnaevs of being involved in the attack.
"There's nothing in here, no," said McElroy, consulting court papers.
Prosecutors said Matanov deleted searches related to the attacks from his computer and tried to dispose of cell phones he described as illegal after the FBI released photos of the suspected bombers on April 18, 2013.
Matanov was brought into court on Wednesday handcuffed wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. His attorney said he entered the United States in 2010 on a student visa and was later granted political asylum due to ethnic clashes in his native Kyrgyzstan.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is being held in a federal prison west of Boston awaiting trial on charges that carry the threat of execution if he is convicted. Tamerlan, 26, died after a gunfight with police three days after the bombing.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Doina Chiacu, David Gregorio and Bill Trott)