American citizen Robel Phillipos is one of the three more suspects arrested last month in connection with the Boston Marathon bombings.
Robel Phillipos’s past and character isn’t as much of a mystery to us as fellow suspects Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, but the question still remains, how did this former daycare worker turn into a suspect?
Seeing what happens to Robel Phillipos, who is an American citizen like his colleague and friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, will show us how investigators and law officials treat someone who allegedly aided suspect accused of terrorism.
Robel Phillipos, 19, isn’t charged with physically tampering with evidence, more specifically throwing out Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s backpack, but he is being charged with lying to federal investigators over the course of four interviews.
“The only allegation he made is a misrepresentation,” his lawyer Derege Demissie said.
Robel Phillipos and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were classmates even before college. Robel Phillipos, according to school officials who spoke to Bloomberg, was a 2011 graduate of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev also graduated in 2011, and actually received a $2,500 scholarship. What isn’t clear is how close they were in school.
“A yearbook photograph shows a smiling Phillipos. Almost directly in front of him, Tsarnaev stares at the camera – his hand gently resting under his chin,” reads the CNN report, but that doesn’t tell us if or how close Robel Phillipos and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were friends in high school. And though there are multiple reports from friends, neighbors, and people who played basketball with Robel Phillipos, none of them have commented on the type of friendship, if any, that he and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had. He and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were classmates for a brief period at UMass Dartmouth.
Robel Phillipos dropped out of School to take care his sick mother.
UMass Dartmouth said that Robel Phillipos, like Dias Kadyrbayev, was not a student at the time of his arrest. But reports say that before he dropped out, he was studying marketing.
“According to a former classmate and friend who worked with Phillipos at a daycare center, Phillipos was attending classes remotely at the time of his arrest because he was staying home to care for his mother, who is ill,” report Erin Baldassari and Amy Saltzman for the Cambridge Chronicle. Though the daycare center where Robel Phillipos worked at isn’t specified, we know he was also active in the Cambridge Kids Council, Cambridge Kids’ Council – a program chaired by the mayor of Cambridge and is, according to its website, “dedicated to developing policy recommendations and programs aimed at improving the quality of life for children, youth and families in the City of Cambridge.”
Robel Phillipos, according to USA Today, was raised by his mother, Genet Bekele, who herself was an immigrant from Ethiopia.
“She is a single mother and works with refugees,” NBC Boston reported, while the Cambridge Chronicle team added: “A devout Protestant, Phillipos’ mother worked directly with refugees and often involved herself in charitable work, the friend said.”
“Do What You Have to Do.”
That’s the phrase that Robel Phillipos is quoted as saying in the criminal complaint. He apparently muttered those words to Dias Kadyrbayev, while discussing what to do with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s backpack. That sounds like reluctance on Robel Phillipos’s part, and according to one of his friends, that’s his catchphrase when he doesn’t like what’s going on. The Chronicle report reads: “One friend said Phillipos wasn’t prone to drama and would often detach himself from sticky situations. Defending allegations that Phillipos lied to investigators to protect Tsarnaev, friends said Phillipos didn’t get in trouble often.
“I know Robel, if he’s not with something, he’s going to say, <<You do you>>. That’s how Robel works,” a friend said, referring to the criminal complaint that quotes Phillipos as reportedly saying, <<Do what you have to do>>.”
Robel Phillipos lived close to the carjacking.
This was mentioned in the initial reports, but Robel Phillipos and his mother lived very close from the carjacking the Tsarnaev brothers committed, which eventually became their undoing.
“The family’s apartment building is located next to the gas station where the carjacking victim from the night of the shootout in Watertown escaped,” reports NBC Boston. There’s no indication from officials that Robel Phillipos did anything more than lie to federal officials, but that’s a strange coincidence to have the Tsarnaev brothers on the loose that night and were in walking distance to their friend’s house.
Robel Phillipos, 19, was released Monday on $100,000 bond and ordered to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet while under house arrest awaiting trial.