On Friday, July 18 at the federal courthouse in Boston, the initial status conference hearing took place for Khairullozhon Matanov, the cab driver from Kyrgyzstan who had dinner with the Tsarnaev brothers the evening after the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013. He is accused of lying to the FBI and deleting google searches from his computer in order to downplay his friendship with the brothers, after he went to the police to identify them. He is not accused of having any information about the bombing.
Matanov is represented by Attorney Edward Hayden while the government prosecutor is Scott Garland, the attorney whose overzealous tactics are believed to have caused MIT hacker Aaron Schwartz to commit suicide. Judge William Young is now presiding over the court. The previous judge, Marianne Bowler, for some reason does not want the case. Matanov, who is being kept in solitary confinement, is still waiting for Bowler to make a decision regarding his release on bail.
The hearing was very brief and there were few people in the courtroom.
When the judge asked Garland about sentencing guidelines, the prosecutor replied that with terrorism enhancements, Matanov would be facing up to 15 years if convicted. In the previous hearing, the government had asked for a sentence of 44 years; so possibly the public concern over prosecutorial overreach made a difference.
Garland proposed a tentative trial date on June 8, 2015, saying that he wanted to make sure Hayden had plenty of time to review the discovery material. Hayden said that this seemed â€œreasonableâ€ and accepted Garlandâ€™s word â€œon good faithâ€ that he would need nearly a year to prepare for this case. Judge Young intervened to suggest that the trial date could be moved closer at Haydenâ€™s request.
Hayden had asked the court to employ Matanovâ€™s previous attorney, Paul Glickman, as co-counsel, arguing that Matanov is â€œin a stressful situation.â€
â€œBecause Mr. Matanov is a very scared young man, thousands of miles away from his family members and facing serious criminal charges that may result in his exclusion from the United States, I believe that the trusting attorney-client relationship I have built with Mr. Matanov is critical to an adequate defense of this case,â€ Glickman said in an affidavit filed in court. The judge refused to appoint Glickman but ruled that he is to be paid a $2,500 consulting fee to assist Hayden.
It is easy to understand why Matanov might be frustrated with Hayden, who is an overworked public defender without much understanding about Islam, or possibly even the recent history of treacherousness government prosecutions of Muslims. He is definitely hopelessly naive about talking to the press, something he had already been warned about by Judge Bowler.
After the 20 minute hearing, Hayden stood outside the courtroom chatting with reporters, one of whom, Michelle McPhee, encouraged him to leak some information about what was in the pile of prosecution documents. He replied that he did not yet have time to review the discovery and could not say anything, but in order to make McPhee happy he mentioned that he looked at a random page of the foot high pile of paper and saw the photograph â€œwith the flag.â€
There have already been media leaks regarding a photo of Matanov and Tamerlan Tsarnaev taken at a mosque, in front of a black flag with Shahada written on it. McPhee quipped to Hayden that this was like posing in front of a swastika, and Hayden just smiled at her. Luckily, this author was present to straighten them out regarding the meaning of the flag, explaining that it was far more like going to a church and posing in front of a cross.
Matanovâ€™s situation is an unusual case because the FBI used a drone to circle around his apartment building on numerous occasions and employed 3 to 4 FBI agents to follow him around in unmarked vehicles wherever he went, 24 hours a day for one year. This incredible taxpayer expense resulted in not one single alarming activity being detected other than charitable wire transfers to his family overseas.
A former client of Matanov told TMO that the young man â€œis a kind, considerate, wonderful young man who expressed that he loved it here and wanted to earn enough money to â€˜bring his parents over.â€™ He expressed his love of little babies and hugging them and that they were â€˜a blessingâ€™ … not the sentiments of a dangerous person. My impression was that he would be a fabulous husband and father.â€
While in prison, Matanov was asked by the FBI to spy on â€œterrorists.â€ He was also told that if he were to plead guilty, his sentence could be reduced to under 7 years.