WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Boston indicted Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Thursday in the Boston Marathon bombings, charging that he and his brother were inspired by al-Qaida propaganda and believed the blasts that killed three and injured more than 260 would avenge U.S. activities overseas.
The 30-count indictment charged the Chechen immigrant and naturalized American citizen with detonating a weapon of mass destruction resulting in deaths. It said he scrawled what amounted to a confession while hiding in a drydocked boat before his capture in Watertown, Mass.
“I don’t like killing innocent people,” Tsarnaev, 19, wrote in a series of notes on the boat’s inside wall and beams, according to the indictment. But, he said, “the U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians. … I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished.”
The indictment alleged that Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan, designed the bombs to “shred skin, shatter bone and cause extreme pain and suffering, as well as death.” Other charges included bombing a public place and malicious destruction of property. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during police pursuit days after the bombings.
Seventeen of the 30 counts could bring a sentence of death or life in prison.
Tsarnaev was also charged in state court Thursday with killing Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer who was shot to death as the brothers allegedly tried to steal his service weapon while attempting to flee the Boston area.
Unlike the federal government, Massachusetts does not have the death penalty, so it seemed likely that the federal case would go first. “All signs point to a capital prosecution of Tsarnaev by the feds,” said Richard Broughton, a former Justice Department Criminal Division official who teaches at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.
Tsarnaev, who was seriously wounded by police during the manhunt, did not enter a plea to the indictment. He is being housed at a federal hospital for prisoners in Devens, Mass., and is scheduled to be arraigned July 10.
The federal indictment laid out new government evidence and this scenario:
The Tsarnaev brothers began planning the bombing in February, and were encouraged after Dzhokhar downloaded jihadist texts, including “The Slicing Sword” and “Defense of the Muslim Lands, the First Obligation after Imam.”
The writings called for violence against enemies of Islam and glorified martyrdom in the service of jihad. Some were written by Abdullah Azzam, the so-called Father of Global Jihad, and Anwar al-Awlaki, the American citizen who was an al-Qaida propagandist until he was killed in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.
The al-Qaida magazine Inspire provided the brothers with detailed instructions on building improvised explosive devices with pressure cookers or sections of pipe, explosive powder from fireworks, and shrapnel, the indictment says.