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Dzhokhar Tsarneav charged in Boston bombings

  • Boston marathon suspect Dzhokhar Tsarneav was criminally charged Monday
  • If convicted, Tsarneav could face the death penalty
Dzhokhar Tsarneav charged in Boston bombings

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Federal prosecutors have charged Boston marathon suspect Dzhokhar Tsarneav with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, and one count of malicious destruction of property with an explosive device resulting in death.

If convicted, Tsarneav could be sentenced to death via lethal injection or life in prison.

Watch: What happens next in the Boston marathon investigation?

A press release from the Department of Justice says Tsarneav was informed of the charge in the hospital Monday. Suspects are usually notified of the basic charges they are facing within a few days of their arrest, but due to the state of Tsarneav's health, this hearing, commonly called the "initial appearance," was held at his bedside.

"Although our investigation is ongoing, today’s charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston, and for our country," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with each of the bombing victims and brave law enforcement professionals who lost their lives or suffered serious injuries as a result of this week’s senseless violence."

Read more: Where are the Tsarnaev brothers really from?

At his initial appearance, the magistrate also likely decided whether Tsarneav would be released on bond. HLN legal experts say it is unlikely he was granted bond because of the dangerous nature of his alleged crimes. A federal public defender was also assigned to represent Tsarneav at this appearance. CNN reports that attorney Bill Fick from the Federal Public Defender's Office in Boston will act as his attorney.

As the 19-year-old remains in the hospital in serious condition with injuries to his neck and to the lower half of his body, his case presents some issues for prosecutors.

Tsarneav has been on a ventilator and heavily sedated since his dramatic arrest Friday night, and the wound to his neck has rendered him unable to speak. However, he has been conscious enough to communicate with investigators via writing. HLN's sources said they would not discuss what Tsarnaev has told investigators.

Tsarneav's inability to speak may be a minor obstacle for conducting court proceedings. He may have to communicate through writings and other means like nodding his head.

Tsarneav has a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 30, 2012, where the judge will decide whether the evidence against the client amounts to probable cause. Eventually, a federal grand jury will likely indict the 19 year-old on formal charges, which will likely include other charges.

A number of pre-trial negotiations and hearings would then be held, including talk about a possible plea deal. If the parties cannot reach a deal, Tsarneav would then face a criminal trial.


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