Friday, December 19, 2014

Marc Fucarile - survivor and eyewitness

Marc Fucarile is probably the hardest-hit survivor of the Marathon bombings. He lost his right leg above the knee. His left leg was also heavily injured, needed several operations and is still in precarious condition. Additional shrapnel hit his upper body, including a dangerous piece in the heart.

So it is understandable that Fucarile is eager to have the culprit punished who changed his life forever. But this has made him blind for the fact that the culprit is not known yet. He is fixated on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and refuses to accept the principle "innocent until proven guilty". But as I have outlined in former blog entries, the available evidence makes it literally impossible that Dzhokhar's bag was the second bomb that maimed Fucarile's leg.

What Fucarile apparently doesn't take into account is that he is a potential key witness, like all other survivors of the second blast, and even might be summoned by the defense. He should take a short look at the criminal complaint:

So the Forum video shows that Tsarnaev dropped his bag at the metal barriers. The paper does not specify the exact location, whether it was between the tree and the mailbox or between the tree and the pole sign. For convenience, I'll disregard the latter and assume that the bag was located between the tree and the mailbox. The efforts of the mainstream media to propagate the "mailbox" version in the immediate aftermath of the bombings indicate "insider knowledge" that Tsarnaev indeed dropped his bag near the mailbox in the Forum video. (The assumption that he dropped it left of the tree leads to even more inevitable problems, by the way).

Several photos shot seconds after the blast show Fucarile lying between the mailbox and the tree, i.e. at the same place where Tsarnaev presumably dropped his bag! Here's a sketch:

The black dotted lines represent the position of the metal barriers after the blast; the white dotted lines represent the former position of the two metal barriers which were blown away or deformed by the blast. The blue criss-cross area shows Marc Fucarile's location after the blast, and the little suitcase symbols indicate possible locations of Tsarnaev's bag before the blast (it might have been somewhere in between, of course).

The diagram shows, as already said, that Fucarile was lying at nearly the same place where the bag was before the blast. The naive conclusion Oh, he was so close to the bomb, no wonder he's so badly injured! fails a reality check however because it neglects the immense pressure wave of the blast. In other words: if Fucarile was (hypothetically) standing at the metal barriers beside Tsarnaev's bag, and this (hypothetical) bomb hit him, he would have been blown away quite a few feet, like so many others. Which obviously didn't happen.

If Fucarile was not standing near the mailbox, but somewhere else, this would indicate that Tsarnaev's bag (the hypothetical bomb) dragged him there. But bombs don't behave like that. Bombs blow everything away from the epicenter - they don't suck things towards the epicenter. Which is proof that the hypothetis doesn't hold and Tsarnaev's bag was no bomb.

Fucarile himself knows best where he was standing prior to the blast. If he was not at the place where he found himself after the blast, i. e. near the mailbox, he seriously should reconsider his hostile and dismissive stance towards Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He should contact the defense team instead and offer his testimony in order to work towards a search for the real culprit.

However, his testimony is not necessary to determine his pre-blast location. The Forum video and the Lord&Taylor video ought to show him with sufficient clarity.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Amy Garofalo - Witness for the Defense

in the case USA vs. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev


Amy Garofalo was at the Forum with her family when the second bomb exploded. They attended a Marathon party of the Joe Andruzzi foundation, which was hosted by the restaurant and took place on the second floor. Without doubt she is an important witness in the Tsarnaev case with regards to the epicenter of the bomb:
Amy Garofalo, of Middletown, Conn., was at a restaurant with her husband and two sons watching the runners when she heard the first explosion. She went outside to see what happened, when the second explosion went off in front of her. “It blew me into the restaurant,” Garofalo said.
 “When the first bomb went off, it shook the restaurant. I looked up the street and could see a big cloud of white smoke. In the 10 seconds before the second blast, I thought it couldn’t be something celebratory, it was too scary. There was no way. It was so loud and so powerful,” she said.
Two messages from Garofalo's twitter account (saved by screenshots) confirm these reports - one from April 15th, 2013: "2nd explosion happened right in front of us and blew us back in the building!"

 And in another one from April 16, she says that the bomb exploded 10 feet away from her.

So where exactly was Amy Garofalo in the moment of the second explosion? She hurried outside after the first blast, then the second blast blew her back inside. So she was either (A) in front of the main entrance - or (B) just outside the opened glass doors of the sit down area of the patio.

She stresses that the bomb exploded "right in front of us" and "10 feet away". For area B this would implicate an epicenter inmidst the tables and chairs on the right side of the patio. This is not only incompatible with all other available witness statements. Additionally, the tables and chairs were not blown away, and there were no injured people in the sitting area.

This leaves area A as the only remaining possibility. Amy Garofalo was most probably directly outside the open doorway of the main entrance. This is consistent with our previous findings: the pressure wave hit her distinctly weaker than Heather Abbott (she had only minor injuries from glass splinters), certainly because she was not so extremely close to the bomb and also protected by the people in between. She must have been somewhere between Abbott and the doorway when the explosion occurred. This is in accordance with the location of the epicenter as I've depicted it here, based on Heather Abbott's account:

According to the criminal complaint and the indictment, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev dropped his bag at the metal barriers. It is impossible that it was the explosive device that blew Amy Garofalo through the doorway into the restaurant. Too far away, too many people in between, and a wrong angle. This makes her a most important witness for the defense, just like Heather Abbott.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bill Hoenk - photographer and eyewitness in the Tsarnaev case

Bill Hoenk is a non-professional photographer who happened to become an eyewitness of the second explosion. One of his photos made it onto the front page of the Time magazine: a two or three year-old boy (Leo Woolfenden) carried away by a policeman (Thomas Barrett).

Hoenk describes his experience in a little known online report (credits to wiseowl of for unearthing this). He states that he shot 51 photos in the first five minutes after the second blast, yet only four of them have been published. These four are apparently pictured in his report, including another iconic photo: Matt Patterson carrying the heavily injured red-haired child alleged to be Jane Richard. Another one is a famous photo shot only 20 seconds after the explosion which I have already featured multiple times:

It appears that Bill Hoenk's material exceeds the output of other photographers of the immediate aftermath of the blast - namely Kenshin Okubo, David Silverman, and David Green - both quantitatively and qualitatively, in terms of significance for the criminal case Marathon bombings. Plenty of interesting and crucial insights are to be expected from the unseen 47 photos, and the defense ought to consider to request them from either the prosecution - in case they have them - or Hoenk himself. 

One important picture probably belongs to these 47 unknowns - it seems to have slipped through the cracks, but is not really widespread. I have featured it in this blog entry and will call it the graphic photo from now on:

Is Bill Hoenk the creator of the graphic photo (whose origin is in the dark)? Yes, most certainly. In order to understand that, we have to consult two videos of the second bomb aftermath, the Fred Land video and the Daniel Robert video. This Hoenk photo

can be matched with the Daniel Robert video and a picture from another photographer taken only seconds before, from a different perspective:

It can be concluded by comparison that Hoenk must have shot the photo at around 3:40 (+-5 seconds) after the blast.

Now look at this screenshot from the Daniel Robert video at 1:02 (3:41 after the blast):

On the left side there's a man standing at a barrier with his camera directed at the second bomb site. The next diagram shows that the position of the man and the angle match the Hoenk photo exactly. In other words: This man is Bill Hoenk just taking the photo depicted above. He wears dark-colored clothes, a backpack, a camera with telephoto lens, and, most strikingly, white sneakers.

Now let's take a look at the Fred Land video. At 1:38, someone wearing dark-colored clothes, a backpack and white sneakers suddenly enters the visible area from below, near the lower right corner, stops at 1:42, takes a picture with a telephoto lens, and leaves the area via the right border at 1:46. This man is clearly Bill Hoenk.

Again, the following diagram shows that time (1:42 in the Fred Land video = 0:42 after the blast), angle and position match the graphic photo:

So the Fred Land video proves that Bill Hoenk is the maker of the graphic photo, thus confirming its hitherto questionable authenticity. I have highlighted its significance for the Tsarnaev case in former blog entries. The example shows that the unseen Hoenk photos are of utmost importance for the trial against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Did Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's bag belong to a bomb-sniffing drill?

Dana Rouleau

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did not plant the pressure cooker bomb at the Forum restaurant. His bag is well pictured in the famous video footage of the corner Gloucester/Boylston Street. It does not contain a pressure cooker (no bulge), it doesn't fit the pictures of the remnants of the second bomb backpack, it doesn't fit the FBI's verbal description of the backpack, and Dzhokhar didn't place it at the location where the second bomb exploded (it was 12-15 feet away, to be exact).

Notwithstanding, his behavior at the Marathon is a conundrum. He dropped his backpack in front of the Forum, and unless he "forgot" to pick it up when he left the site - which is highly unlikely - the question what was in his bag and why did he leave it there is extremely puzzling.

It is not disputed that Dzhokhar purchased and played with fireworks, opened the tubes and removed the black powder. But the producer has ensured that this black powder has not the explosive force necessary for a pressure cooker bomb.

It is also not disputed that there were some bomb alerts after the bombings. The Mandarin hotel was evacuated due to a bomb threat, and there was one controlled demolition announced one hour after the bombs, located across Boston Public library, which is exactly the first bomb site!
Reports from social media (unconfirmed) indicate that a secondary explosive device has been located outside of Boston's Mandarin Oriental Hotel and will be destroyed (hopefully safely) in a controlled demolition by the Boston Police Department using explosive ordnance disposal equipment.

A third explosion was heard about an hour after the first two after authorities warned spectators to expect a loud noise from a water cannon that police apparently were using to destroy one of the devices.

The media have taken the information about the additional suspicious items with astonishing serenity, not to say negligence. It soon vanished into oblivion. Nobody cared about the nature of these bombs, who might have placed them, etc. - but they should have appeared in FBI records, court filings and  investigative reports. They didn't. After Marathon day, nobody was interested in the fact that in addition to the two big bombs two other bombs have been dismantled.

And who found the explosive devices among the many bags and backpacks left back or forgotten in panic? Yes - the bomb-sniffing dogs who were already on scene before, apparently as participants of a drill. A study from the Harvard Kennedy school released in April reports that at least one of the not-explosive bombs was identified by a dog.

This leads to an alternative explanation for Dzhokhar's behavior which is much better in accordance with reality: his bag might simply have contained the harmless black powder from the fireworks, with certain ingrediences similar to the "real stuff" so that the "canines" were able to identify it. He was definitely not the only one who placed a harmless bomb as part of the bomb-sniffing drill. And his brother Tamerlan, the one with the special law enforcement connections, persuaded him to do this dubious, but presumably well paid "job".

When besieged by the FBI in his hospital bed, Dzhokhar indeed seems to have mentioned a bomb, but it is unclear what kind of "bomb" . The crucial details are blacked out in this court document - with the exception of the black powder:

Even the defense admits the "bomb" in Doc 295:

Despite fighting for the admissibility of these statements the prosecution has announced not to make use of this "confession". Is it because Dzhokhar's description is not compatible with a pressure cooker bomb?

Sunday, July 06, 2014

When exactly was Tamerlan Tsarnaev identified by the FBI on surveillance video?

The National Geographic docudrama "The hunt for the Boston Bombers" is a masterpiece in the art of fudging reality. It shows

-  genuine footage from the immediate aftermath of the bombings
-  reenacted scenes from the immediate aftermath of the bombings
-  genuine interviews with genuine FBI- or ex-FBI officials
-  reenacted scenes with actors posing as FBI officials
-  reenacted scenes with actors posing as the Tsarnaevs
-  reenacted scenes with FBI staff watching a reenacted video with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
-  reenacted scenes with FBI staff watching a genuine video with the Tsarnaevs

The mode of the scenes changes very quickly and there are no captions in the original version to inform the viewer, making it difficult for him to know if a particular scene is reenacted or genuine. The defense has addressed this problem in a motion to prohibit leaks.

Fortunately, at least the interview clips with the FBI agents are genuine and reliably reflect their view of what happened in the days after the bombings. I have already pointed out here that their narrative at what time Dzhokhar was identified as a suspect ("White Hat") is at odds with the common police practice to examine the most important surveillance video at first - which is, in the case of the second bomb, the Forum video. This video was known to law enforcement on Monday afternoon, already half an hour after the bombings, but the docudrama suggests the FBI didn't spot Dzohkhar until Tuesday afternoon, which is hardly credible.

But even if we assume for once that an incompetent FBI staff needed over 24 hours to detect how Dzhokhar dropped a bag at the Forum, behaved "suspiciously" and left the scene 10 seconds before the blast, this blunder is trumped by another FBI failure.

The statements of FBI Special Agent Jeffrey S. Sallett implicate that at least one day passed from the detection of Dzhokhar in the said surveillance video until the detection of Tamerlan in another video. According to Sallett, this was the situation on Tuesday after having spotted "White Hat" for the first time:
There's no magic bullet to get the identity of this man. The image that we have is extremely grey, not even a great photo of this individual. So now our team objective is to see if there is other videos of White Hat walking down the street to identify where that individual and when that individual came onto the crime scene itself - and was that individual with anybody else when they came onto the crime scene.
And this is how Sallett describes the situation on Wednesday:
The evening of Wednesday April 17th Massachusetts State Police Colonel Frank Matthews came up to the 8th floor of the FBI building and said: I think we have another subject. “This is the security camera of the corner Gloucester/Boylston at around 2:37.” They have a video with our individual walking with the white hat with another individual, a larger person, with a similar backpack. “And they make their way along Boylston and then they walk away from the camera toward the bomb site”.
It was only after detecting this second video, Sallett claims, that investigators expanded their list of suspects - now "Black Hat" and "White Hat" - and decided to go public with the Gloucester/Boylston video footage. But according to the detailed description of Sallett's FBI colleague Daniel R. Genck in the criminal complaint Tamerlan is easily identifiable in the Forum video:

Let's assume "White Hat" was identified in the Forum video on Tuesday, as suggested in the docudrama. The following questions then arise automatically:

Did the FBI staff rewind the surveillance tape to the moment when Dzhokhar is visible for the first time? If not, why not?

Did the FBI notice the person with the backpack standing together with Dzhokhar half-block from the Forum restaurant (at Atlantic Fish)? If not, why not?

Did the FBI notice this person walking towards the location where the first bomb exploded and passing directly in front of the Forum? If not, why not?

Why did the FBI not go public with the Forum video? Why did they have to wait for the Gloucester/Boylston video?

The only way to discharge the FBI of such grotesque and unprecedented incompetence is to charge them of lying in front of the camera of National Geographic.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Associated Press changed story about Kadyrbayev testimony

Under this headline

Friend says he thought Tsarnaev was bomb suspect

Associated Press published a summary of Dias Kadyrbayev's court appearance today. The article highlights Kadyrbayev's answer to a question in the cross-examination that seems to indicate that he suspected his friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of planting the pressure cooker bomb in front of the Forum restaurant.
 "You said you didn't know for sure that he was the bomber, that you suspected he was the bomber, correct?" asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann.
"Yes, that's correct," Kadyrbayev replied.

The answer was also quickly picked up by twitter accounts of Patricia Wen (Boston Globe), J.M. Lawrence (Boston Justice), Laurel L. Sweet (Boston Herald) and others as a kind of confession by proxy. But things are a bit more tricky.

Interestingly, the headline chooses the weaker "bomb suspect" instead of "bomber". This has a reason. The link in its current form is an update of an earlier AP message with a completely different content. Here's the original version:

           Associated Press 
BOSTON (AP) — A man told federal agents he suspected his friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (joh-HAHR' tsahr-NEYE'-ehv) was being sought in the Boston Marathon bombing when he removed items from Tsarnaev's dorm room.

Dias Kadyrbayev (DY'-us kah-dur-BY'-ehv) acknowledged during testimony Tuesday that he suspected Tsarnaev was one of two men whose photographs were released by the FBI three days after twin explosions at the 2013 marathon killed three people and injured more than 260.
Authorities say he told them that he and another Tsarnaev friend went to Tsarnaev's dorm room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and took Tsarnaev's backpack containing fireworks and threw it in a trash bin.

Kadyrbayev's testimony came while he was cross-examined by a prosecutor during a hearing on his request to suppress the statements he made to authorities.

Some newspapers still have the old content, like the Huron Daily Tribune, others have the updated version.

The difference between the two versions is like day and night. The original version says that Kadyrbayev suspected Tsarnaev being "one of two men whose photographs were released by the FBI". The updated version says that he suspected Tsarnaev of planting one of the bombs.

Unfortunately, in the update AP has thrown out the information that Kadyrbayev's suspicion referred to photographs of the brothers and replaced it by the sly "bomber" question. Obviously, after raising the issue of the photos and Kadyrbayev's reaction to it, Attourney Siegmann's question impermissibly equated the men in the photo with the - still unknown - individuals who placed the bombs. Kadyrbayev's admission that he "suspected" Tsarnaev originally referred to the identity of the man on the photo, not Tsarnaev's involvement in the bombings. But he went into Siegmann's trap. The equation Tsarnaevs=bombers which has been hammered into the heads of the public for over a year didn't fail to affect Kadyrbayev, too.

It is therefore erroneous to take Kadyrbayev's imprudent answer as an affirmation that Tsarnaev was the second bomber. The fact that Associated Press doesn't mention the "two men on the photographs" in the updated version, thereby suppressing the context, demonstrates that the mainstream media are still keen to keep Tsarnaev as a scapegoat at all costs.

A transcript of the testimony is urgently needed.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

When exactly was Dzhokhar Tsarnaev identified by FBI on surveillance video?


Forum Manager showed surveillance footage to police half an hour after the bombings


The picture shows a surveillance camera above the right side of the entrance door, beside the awning (Source: Forum)



Numerous law enforcement representatives have recently come forward and ingenously talked to media about the "manhunt" for the Boston bombers. The video footage leading them to the Tsarnaev brothers - the so called "Eureka video" -  plays a prominent role here. Unfortunately, neither the identity of this important video is clear - is it taken from the Forum restaurant or the Lord&Taylor department store across the street - nor the "Eureka moment" when Dzhohar Tsarnaev was spotted as the prime suspect.

Retired FBI Special Agent In Charge Rick DesLauriers showed a surprising tentativeness when asked for this moment on a  CBS News "60 Minute" program:

Scott Pelley: Was there a Eureka moment in terms of the video? At some point somebody said, "Hey, boss, have a look at this"?

Rick DesLauriers: Yes, there was. It was I believe, early Wednesday morning. And we watched that video hundreds and hundreds of times.

DesLauriers' "believe" that it was Wednesday morning is wrong however, if we may believe another program where he also offers insights into the investigation. The National Geographic docudrama Inside the hunt for the boston bombers, designed with the aspiration of being detailed and accurate, sets the Eureka moment on Tuesday, confirmed by DesLauries and two other FBI agents.

So the docudrama certainly trumps DesLauriers' believe expressed on CBS News. Both versions however have to be confronted with the account of Chris Loper, a manager of the Forum restaurant who was working there when the second bomb exploded.

Half an hour later, the police found Mr. Loper and asked him to show them the restaurant’s security cameras. He took them to the basement, where he rewound the tapes and saw that they had captured the bombing. He and his colleagues headed home in a daze. He woke up the next morning on his couch, his cellphone ringing. The first call was from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The next was from CNN.

The "half an hour later" refers to the moment when Heather Abbott was moved out of the restaurant, i.e. shortly after the bombings. This means that the police has seen the Forum surveillance video at 3:30 p.m., April 15, 2013, at latest.

The investigators who had the opportunity to watch the video in the basement for the first time may not have been from the FBI. But in case they were only local police forces, they would have confiscated the video likewise and shared it with the FBI promptly. DesLauriers announced on Monday evening at 9:00 p.m. that the FBI had taken over the lead in the investigation. So at this time, the FBI was surely in possession of a copy and had begun to analyze the video by itself.

In the National Geographic docudrama Assistance FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey S. Sallett is quoted as saying that "the most important videos early on would going to be the ones who were directed at the crime scene so that we could identify who put the devices down". This is a matter of course, and the Forum video was on top of that list. But in contrast to Sallett's insight, the program paints the picture of an unsorted huge pile of video tapes with dozens of investigators browsing through them at random.

"We were looking for signs of abnormal activity. Individuals who didn't look like they were there to watch the Marathon. Individuals who might have been pacing back and forth. Individuals who might have been carrying something that could have contained an explosive device. Individuals placing such a container down in a particular moment in time near the bombings" (Des Lauriers)

"There's the impression from CSI that you saw everything in 10 minutes with video forensics. But it's just tenacious labor of looking at the video over and over and over again." (Sallett)

"Hours at the same video, hours at watching the bombing over and over and over again - you know I would be lying if I said that it didn't take a toll of us. It's very difficult to watch that. I saw the bomb actually go off so many times - it was stick in my head forever." (Kimberley Lawrence, FBI Supervisory Special Agent)

The docudrama suggests that after endless hours of tenacious searching, Tsarnaev is finally spotted by one of DesLauriers' supervisors, and that this Eureka moment occurred on late Tuesday. On CBS News, DesLauriers pinpoints it on early Wednesday morning.

Neither of these narratives is credible. As we know from the criminal complaint, the individual Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is well recognizable on the Forum video, his behavior stands out against the other spectators, and he enters the crime scene with his bag and walks away without it just before the second bomb explodes. To identify him as a "person of interest" was a matter of minutes rather than hours. The Forum video was known to investigators since Monday afternoon. So the job was certainly done on Monday night.

The elaborations of DesLauriers and his co-workers in the National Geographic and CBS News program seem to be intended to cover up the existence of the Lord&Taylor video which caused indeed an Eureka moment for law enforcement on Wednesday morning. This was reported by CNN, the Boston Globe, AP and other media outlets and confirmed by a spokesman for Mayor Thomas Menino and City Council President Stephen Murphy. The suspect was not "White Hat", however. According to CBS, Tsarnaev was wanted as a potential witness.

The prosecution is apparently not keen to acknowledge the existence and significance of the Lord&Taylor video or provide it to the defense.