Boston bombings suspect moved from hospital to prison

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been moved to a Massachusetts prison facility from the hospital he has been held in for a week.

By Tracy Connor, Alastair Jamieson and Erin McClam, NBC News

April 26, 2013

The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has been moved from the hospital to a federal prison 40 miles away that provides specialized medical care, the government said Friday.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was moved from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he has been held and interrogated since his capture last week, to the federal prison at Fort Devens, Mass., the Marshals Service said.

The prison’s website describes it as a facility for men who need specialized or long-term medical or mental health care.

The most prominent inmate there is Raj Rajaratnam, who in 2011 was sentenced to 11 years in prison for insider trading. He has diabetes, and the prison has a dialysis center.

The prison is in a wooded setting on a decommissioned military base at Fort Devens. Another inmate there is Sabri Benkahla, who is serving 10 years for lying to authorities about training with militants in Pakistan. Benkahla was accused of being part of an American group that trained with paintball guns. He is scheduled for release in 2016.

Roger Stockham, a Southern California man who was accused in January 2011 of plotting to blow up a mosque outside Detroit, served at Fort Devens and was released late last year. Stockham has a long criminal history that includes holding a psychiatrist hostage, kidnapping his son, trying to hijack a plane and threatening to kill the president.

A lawyer who has had clients sentenced to Fort Devens told The Hartford Courant in 2005 that the prison has an outdoor basketball court. Crafts, including woodworking and making leather goods, are popular, the lawyer told the newspaper — though it is not clear how restricted Tsarnaev will be.

At the time, a judge had recommended that John Rowland, a former Connecticut governor who pleaded guilty to a corruption charge, be assigned to Fort Devens. Instead he served about 10 months at a federal prison in Pennsylvania.

The decision on where to send federal inmates is made by the Bureau of Prisons, which does not generally disclose its reasons for assigning prisoners.

Boston police could be seen early Friday leaving the hospital, which has treated not just Tsarnaev but people injured in the marathon blasts April 15.

Tsarnaev, 19, was upgraded earlier this week to fair condition from serious. His injuries, including a gunshot wound to the head and neck that may have been self-inflicted, were so severe that he initially communicated with investigators by moving his head and in writing.

He also has injuries to the leg and hand, apparently from a firefight with police in suburban Watertown, Mass., on April 19 that played out about 12 hours before Tsarnaev was captured hiding in a boat parked in the driveway of a house.

New York authorities said Thursday that Tsarnaev had improved to the point that he could talk, and that in a second round of questioning he admitted that he and his brother decided on the run to carry out a second attack in Times Square. His brother, Tamerlan, was killed after the shootout.

Tsarnaev has been charged with federal crimes including conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, and Attorney General Eric Holder could decide to seek the death penalty.

Tsarnaev has told investigators that he and his brother acted alone when they built and detonated two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the marathon. Three people were killed in the attack and more than 200 injured.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told investigators that the brothers were motivated by a desire to defend Islam after the American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In prison, experts have said, Tsarnaev will probably be subject to special administrative measures that could sharply curtail his contact with fellow prisoners and the outside world. Stephen Huggard, a former Boston federal prosecutor who worked on the Sept. 11 investigation, said Tsarnaev’s parents, who are in Russia and have insisted he’s being framed, may not be allowed to visit.

At a hospital court room hearing earlier this week, Tsarnaev showed little sign of fear or remorse and his heart monitor didn’t register a blip when he was told he could be could be facing the death penalty, according to a source familiar with the events inside the room when he was read his rights.

The mother of the Tsarnaev brothers insisted Thursday that her sons are not responsible for the attack and said she did not see any aggression in the older brother, even when the FBI questioned him two years ago.

Speaking to reporters in Russia, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva also said the elder son, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, came to Russia for six months last year to attend a family wedding, visit relatives and later renew his Kyrgyzstan passport.

“America took my kids away from me,” she said. “I’m sure my kids were not involved in anything.”

U.S. investigators have said they want to know more about why Tamerlan Tsarnaev was in Russia. When he returned to the United States in July, he began posting radical Islamic videos to his YouTube account.

Matthew DeLuca of NBC News contributed to this report.

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