Boston Bomber – Dzhokhar Tsarnaev charged with using ‘weapon of mass destruction’
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev charged with using ‘weapon of mass destruction’
View Photo Gallery — A harrowing week after the Boston Marathon bombings: With one suspect dead and another in custody, the city mourns victims while investigators try to piece together what happened.
By Sari Horwitz, Jenna Johnson and Kathy Lally, Updated: Monday, April 22, 9:26 PM
Federal authorities on Monday charged the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings with using a “weapon of mass destruction” against people and property, and the White House rejected demands by some congressional Republicans that he be tried before a military tribunal as an “enemy combatant.”
The Justice Department said Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, was charged in a criminal complaint unsealed Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. It said he is “specifically charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (namely, an improvised explosive device or IED) against persons and property within the United States resulting in death, and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.” The department said in a news release that the bombings resulted in the deaths of three people and injuries to more than 200 others.
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If convicted, Tsarnaev could face the death penalty, the statement said. It said he had his initial court appearance Monday from his hospital room, where he is being treated for wounds sustained before his capture Friday evening.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that under U.S. law, American citizens such as Tsarnaev cannot be tried by military commissions.
Carney made the comments after the first victim’s funeral was held in a quiet Boston suburb, and as investigators weighed how and when to file criminal charges against Tsarnaev. The funeral came a week after the bombings reintroduced terror into the lives of ordinary Americans, killing three spectators as they watched the renowned race.
Tsarnaev “will not be treated as an enemy combatant,” Carney said at a White House news briefing. “We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice. Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions.” He said that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, “we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists.”
Four Republican members of Congress — Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.) — demanded Saturday that Tsarnaev be treated as an “enemy combatant” rather than as a common criminal suspect. That would enable the government to charge him under the laws of war in a military commission or to hold him indefinitely without charges.
But prominent Democrats disagreed Sunday, saying that Tsarnaev should not be treated as an enemy combatant and that he should be prosecuted in federal court. “I do not believe under the military commission law that he is eligible for that. It would be unconstitutional to do that,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Carney also said Monday that President Obama is being updated on the progress of what he described as a “comprehensive investigation” into the bombings. But the press secretary declined to address questions about what, if anything, Tsarnaev may be communicating investigators, saying he would not “give a play-by-play” of the case.