BOSTON (Reuters) - A high school friend of the accused Boston Marathon bombers pleaded guilty on Friday to charges including having possessed a gun that prosecutors contend the suspects used to shoot dead a university police officer as they tried to flee the city.
Stephen Silva, 21, changed his plea from not guilty in U.S. District Court in Boston after reaching a deal with federal prosecutors that was filed under seal.
His plea comes as the city braces for the January start of the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the pair of brothers who prosecutors say killed three people and injured more than 260 in the April 15, 2013 attack, as well as fatally shooting a Massachusetts Institute of Technology officer three days later.
The older brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died that night following a gunbattle with police in the suburb of Watertown. Dzhokhar, now 21, was arrested the following evening at the end of a manhunt that prompted a lockdown of most of the Boston area.
Silva, who is not accused of playing any role in the bombing, pleaded guilty to charges of selling heroin, as well as having possessed a handgun with its serial number filed off. That gun was discovered after the Watertown gunbattle, two months after Silva admitted to possessing it.
In another case related to the suspects, a U.S. judge on Friday ordered prosecutors and defense attorneys to review how FBI reports on another friend of the accused bombers were obtained by a Boston Magazine reporter.
That friend, Khairullozhon Matanov, a cab driver from Kyrgyzstan, has been charged with lying to investigators by downplaying his relationship with the brothers after calling police to offer information on them.
Boston Magazine reported that Matanov told investigators that he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev discussed the bombing and that Tamerlan “expressed glee” over the attack.
That information came from non-public Federal Bureau of Investigation reports on agents’ interviews with Matanov, his lawyers contend.
U.S. District Judge William Young on Friday ordered both Matanov’s lawyers and prosecutors to review who on either side had copies of the FBI reports.
“This is a very serious matter,” Young said of the leaked reports. “I want to know what happened here so that appropriate action can be taken.”
Matanov is also not charged with playing any role in the bombing attack.
Tsarnaev faces the death penalty if convicted of the largest mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Tom Brown