Will a $30 Million Lawsuit Over FBI Killing of Witness Todashev Shed Light on Boston Bombing?

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Ibragim Todashev’s father, displaying an autopsy photo of his son.

Ibragim Todashev’s father, displaying an autopsy photo of his son.

The trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may not shed much light into the murky matters surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing. In at least one aspect, though, there is hope that the truth may come out.

The family of Ibragim Todashev notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation that it intends to pursue a wrongful death claim over his death at the hands of an FBI agent with a checkered past.

Todashev was a friend of alleged Boston bombing principal Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who himself was killed by authorities in Boston a month earlier. Todashev died in Orlando, Florida, under interrogation by the FBI and Massachusetts State Police. His family is seeking $30 million in a lawsuit expected to be filed in the coming weeks.

The family’s forthcoming wrongful death suit, signaled in a document known as a notice of claim, alleges that FBI Special Agent “Aaron McFarlane…illegally shot and killed Ibragim Todashev…on May 22, 2013.” It is the latest twist in an aspect of the bombing investigation which has drawn widespread attention and criticism from within and without government circles.

Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA)  told Boston Public Radio that government interactions with Todashev did not conform to protocol and “could have been handled better.”

Interview or Interrogation?

Indeed, the four-hour plus interview in Todashev’s apartment— the last of several weeks of his tense interactions with marathon bombing investigators—was a full-on interrogation seeking a confession to a grisly 2011 triple murder in Waltham, Mass. The idea, apparently, was to tie Todashev and his friend, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, to the killing.

However, what exactly Todashev said—or was about to say—remains the subject of furious dispute, especially as it pertains to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s ongoing federal capital murder trial.

Back in November, U.S. District Court Judge George O’Toole reviewed the FBI’s records of Todashev’s interviews, but denied a request from Tsarnaev’s defense attorneys to view them. His reason: The statements would not assist the defense “beyond what is already available to them through discovery.”

Tsarnaev’s lawyers were seeking information regarding “Tamerlan’s role in the Waltham murders and evidence concerning the brutality of those murders.” They hoped the investigation would bolster a potential mitigation argument: that Dzhokhar was coerced, or unduly influenced, by his older brother.

O’Toole’s ruling, taken on its face, means that Todashev never elaborated on Tamerlan’s purported involvement in the murders beyond the sparse details he provided in an unfinished handwritten confession. Further, his confession was inconsistent with the crime scene and fell short of even mentioning the killings.

“Cannot Be Trusted”

Even before O’Toole’s ruling, prosecutors revealed that they had “no evidence Tamerlan Tsarnaev actually participated in the Waltham murders.” That marked a complete reversal in the government’s position, which, backed by anonymous law enforcement leaks, led the public to believe that Tamerlan Tsarnaev played an active role in slitting the throats of the three Waltham victims.

That alone is cause for suspicion, according to Thania Diaz Clevenger, the civil rights director for Florida’s chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations:

It raises the question of why Ibragim Todashev was questioned by the FBI to begin with and whether the alleged confession by Ibragim was coerced or a pretext used to harm Ibragim’s reputation in order to justify the FBI shooting.

Yet the federal government has simultaneously argued that Todashev’s statements are vital to the Waltham case, and therefore are part of an ongoing criminal investigation not subject to public scrutiny. State investigators have also refused to reveal any details about the Waltham slayings, citing the ongoing investigation. The killings remain unsolved.

Todashev, 27, was allegedly “moments away” from completing his handwritten confession when, the FBI says, he flipped a table and injured McFarlane, who subsequently shot him multiple times.

McFarlane was cleared of any wrongdoing by a State of Florida probe, which accepted the argument that Todashev was about to write his confession. However, that report made no mention of the ex-Oakland cop’s violent history. McFarlane had been the subject of two police brutality lawsuits and four internal investigations. He was also embroiled in the notorious Riders corruption scandal, in which federal prosecutors accused him of lying on the witness stand.

What isn’t clear is why the government chose an officer with that kind of history to handle a sensitive case like Todashev’s. Equally, it’s clear that the federal government has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the results of that particular investigation from being fully disclosed.

Now, the only hope of uncovering the truth appears to lie in what the family’s wrongful death lawsuit can uncover.

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6 responses to “Will a $30 Million Lawsuit Over FBI Killing of Witness Todashev Shed Light on Boston Bombing?”

  1. Gus Mueller says:

    It’s clear that Todashev was murdered by one or more agents of the FBI. What’s not clear is if that murder was part of a conspiracy but the FBI is obviously covering up.

  2. MarkTenneyNewMathDoneRight says:

    DOJ secret hearing on Todashev mocks justice. If DOJ wants to say we are at war with Moslems, they should say that. But if we are not, then they have to disclose all the information relating to their killing a witness while coercing a false confession.

  3. shishani says:

    Ibrahim Todashev knew what went on in Boston and what he knew

    Would have cleared the two brothers and that’s why he had to be eliminated
    .

  4. Brennan says:

    Great article.
    Interesting LE assertion that Todashev was about to confess to murder, and that Carmen Ortiz & co had touted the allegation that there was mounting evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was involved. As the author previously observed, this fell spectacularly when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defence team pressed for information from the Todashev files.

    Of course nothing was actually revealed, but the upshot was a one-eighty from Carmen Ortiz. So, it is not possible that both of Ortiz’s assertions here are true. So which is it ? Seems like the ‘correct’ one is whichever one keeps Tamerlan beyond scrutiny.

  5. FiuToYou says:

    It seems the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, NSA, the Attorney General, Congress, the Senate, The White House all are slowly taking away the basic rights of the citizens of America, slowly but surely. Honest Journalists aren’t safe from death if they get too close to the truth. The general public has no idea what is going on and if they do, they have no clue how to stop it. America is turning into the worst example of a ‘terrorist’ country originating from within its self. Reminds you of a country that wants to take over the whole world and god help who or what gets in the way. Very corrupt and scary place and getting worse every day. The voters have one last chance to make a change in the 2016 elections, but that will take ‘radical’ votes to clean out the whole nest of Republican and Democrat scum, and find and put in honest people who love the ideals of what America is supposed to stand for. Ask Bernie Sanders and the people that look up to him to make a third party and a fourth one that has nothing to do with who’s running the show for the last 5 decades. That’s the only choice for a free America again. MARK MY WORDS!!!!

  6. FiuToYou says:

    It seems the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, NSA, the Attorney General, Congress, the Senate, The White House all are slowly taking away the basic rights of the citizens of America, slowly but surely. Honest Journalists aren’t safe from death if they get too close to the truth. The general public has no idea what is going on and if they do, they have no clue how to stop it. America is turning into the worst example of a ‘terrorist’ country originating from within its self. Reminds you of a country that wants to take over the whole world and god help who or what gets in the way. Very corrupt and scary place and getting worse every day. The voters have one last chance to make a change in the 2016 elections, but that will take ‘radical’ votes to clean out the whole nest of Republican and Democrat scum, and find and put in honest people who love the ideals of what America is supposed to stand for. Ask Bernie Sanders and the people that look up to him to make a third party and a fourth one that has nothing to do with who’s running the show for the last 5 decades. That’s the only choice for a free America again. MARK MY WORDS!!!!