Nineteen-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been officially charged with using a weapon of mass destruction in the Boston Marathon bombings on on April 15.
He has been charged specifically with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (an improvised explosive device) 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. This is all punishable, upon conviction, by death or life imprisonment.
Tsarnaev’s initial court appearance took place today from his hospital room, where he has reportedly been communicating by writing, as he is unable to speak due to a gunshot wound to the throat.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement, “Although our investigation is ongoing, today’s charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston, and for our country. Our thoughts and prayers remain with each of the bombing victims and brave law enforcement professionals who lost their lives or suffered serious injuries as a result of this week’s senseless violence.”
“Thanks to the valor of state and local police, the dedication of federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, and the vigilance of members of the public, we’ve once again shown that those who target innocent Americans and attempt to terrorize our cities will not escape from justice,” Holder added. ” We will hold those who are responsible for these heinous acts accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, added, “The events of the past week underscore in stark terms the need for continued vigilance against terrorist threats both at home and abroad. Friday’s arrest and today’s charges demonstrate what can be achieved by a collaborative, round-the clock response involving law enforcement officers, intelligence professionals, prosecutors and the general public.”
Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said, “Today’s charges are the culmination of extraordinary law enforcement coordination and the tireless efforts of so many, including ordinary citizens who became heroes as they responded to the call for help in the hours and days following the Marathon tragedy. The impact of these crimes has been far-reaching, affecting a worldwide community that is looking for peace and justice. We hope that this prosecution will bring some small measure of comfort both to the public at large and to the victims and their families that justice will be served. While we will not be able to comment on any possible communications between the suspect and law enforcement at this time, as a general rule, the government will always seek to elicit all the actionable intelligence and information we can from terrorist suspects taken into our custody.”
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Weinreb and Aloke Chakravarty from the Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. The Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division is assisting.
The Justice Department’s announcement concludes by reminding the public that the charges are “merely allegations” and that Tsarnaev remains innocent until proven guilty.
The official complaint against Tsarnaev can be viewed here (pdf).