Friday last, at about 5:00 a.m., one neighbor of Khairullozhon Matanov saw at least “three black SUVs with tinted windows and several FBI agents with body armor and guns”. Another saw: “a black SUV and a white van and a SWAT team member.” They busted into a basement apartment occupied by Matanov according to the pictures shown over and over again on television of a door with a busted lock.
As this group of heavily armed cops entered into the building where Matanov lived they would have had to march past a Checker Cab parked in the parking lot of the building. Matanov was a cab driver. Other cab drivers in the area who knew him liked him and had nothing but good words to say about him. One described him as “One of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.” If you know anything you got to know that cabbies are the salt of the earth and they better than most people have great insight into another’s character.
In a more normal or civilized society all these law enforcement officers could have got up at their regular hour rather than gathering at the ungodly hour of four in the morning to assemble and prepare for this raid. You see if the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston maintained proper control over the FBI and other police agencies, they would have insisted that two Quincy cops, or perhaps two FBI agents or U.S. Marshalls, wait until Matanov walked out of his apartment to get into his car and then arrested him quietly and brought him to court.
Matanov was indicted sometime before Friday morning when the indictment was unsealed. An arrest warrant had issued for him. He was not a danger to anyone; in fact, the charges against him were a year old. For over that year he had been coming and going to his job and leading an open life that made him amenable to be arrested at any time.
So what was the purpose of the outrageous assault on his apartment? In part it was to give the cops a feeling of power – knocking down a door and rushing in clad in full body armor to point their guns at and to brute-like toss this 23-year-old lad from his bed onto the floor; the other part was to gin up lots of publicity which the local media like a starving blue fish swallows without question, hook, line and sinker. It also may be the FBI’s need for publicity to offset some of the not so good news about it lately. I guess it’s better than recycling the Gardner Museum heist story.
I first heard of it when I saw a headline: “Khairullozhon Matanov Arrested.” When I saw it I wondered “who’s that?” thinking some big deal had just been nabbed. I happened to be near a television so I turned it on. Two people were talking as a picture of the federal courthouse in Boston was being shown from a helicopter circling endlessly over it. The talking heads had already convicted Matanov. Yet, there was nothing to see. The federals don’t believe in letting the public see what they do in their courtrooms. So much for transparency. Television being a visual medium, the best anyone could come up with was the video of courthouse showing absolutely nothing.
The television announcers kept quoting from the indictment. I changed to three other local stations and the same thing was happening. If the U.S. Attorney wanted publicity, she certainly got it full blast in the Boston media. Nationally it was ignored which probably should have been done by the local media because the whole case is much ado about nothing. In fact, it’s a travesty of justice.
Matonov’s crime is two fold according to the indictment: he apparently destroyed evidence after he knew the FBI might be interested in it; and, he gave some answers to FBI agents, or some other cops, that weren’t truthful. But all of this related to the investigation of him, not the Tsarnaevs. Matonov was exercising his right not to incriminate himself.
We learn from the indictment the investigation of the Marathon Terrorist Attack was led by the FBI and they published photographs of the Tsarnaevs at 5:15 pm on 4/18/2015 and 2:00 am on 4/19/2005. It is alleged Matonov knew the FBI was doing the investigation and that it would want to discuss with him the contact he had with the Tsarnaevs following the bombing and the “views he held relative to terrorism.”
Then we hear Matonov lied to two or three witnesses about what he knew. He then went to the Braintree police and denied seeing the photographs the FBI published and lied about where Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife and daughter lived. Matonov then deleted things from his computer on the 19th which the FBI restored having seized his computer on the 20th. The deleted matter contained “violent content or calls to violence.”
The indictment alleges his deletion “obstructed the FBI’s determination of his Internet activity” and “the extent to which he shared the suspected bombers’ philosophical justification for violence, among other topics of interest.” Who are they investigating?
The indictment says Matonov lied to the FBI saying he met the Tsarnaevs by accident at a restaurant when in fact he made plans to meet them there; also he lied about when he first suspected the Tsarnaevs were the bombers saying different things at interviews with the FBI on April 20, April 24, May 3, May 31, and July 8.
Matonov faces 20 years in prison for the destruction of his violent videos; and he faces 8 years for three separate things he lied about. Matanov is not alleged to have anything to do with the Marathon Terrorist Attack. Apparently he’s been investigated for over a year because his connection with the Tsarnaev’s including continual surveillance and the use of drones. He has done nothing during that year that close to being criminal.
The problem with the whole case which the U.S. Attorney seems to miss is that Matonov did nothing to interfere with the FBI’s investigation of the bombing. He knew nothing about it. All he did was try to distance himself from the Tsarnaevs thinking that his close connection with them would get him into trouble.
If you know nothing about the crime being investigated you can’t obstruct it. Matonov is not alleged to know anything about it. There’s no duty in America to go out of your way to help investigators or to disclose what you think of things. If you want to hide your personal views about terrorism, that is not a crime nor does it have anything to do with the FBI’s investigation.
Matonov cooperated with the FBI, it had his computer, he was interviewed at least five times. The FBI cut and sliced his statements to make a case against him when there is none. The U.S. Attorney should have never indicted him. Nor should she have hyped up the case with the early morning SWAT assault which prejudices his right to a fair trial.
There is something awfully wrong with this case. It doesn’t smell right. But you’ll never read about it because this is Boston where most, fortunately not all, of the media unquestioning scrapes and bows before the U.S. Attorney and the FBI.