By Scott Malone
BOSTON, March 24 (Reuters) - A citizen of Kyrgyzstan who was friends with the accused Boston Marathon bombers pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges of lying to investigators probing the deadly 2013 attack.
The man, cabdriver Khairullozhon Matanov, approached police four days after the bombing that killed three people and injured 264 to say that he knew accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, but played down how well he knew the pair.
"Guilty," Matanov, 24, said in an afternoon hearing at U.S. District Court in Boston when asked how he pleaded to three charges of lying to investigators in a federal investigation and one of destroying evidence, for deleting files on his laptop.
Matanov, who appeared in court with his ankles shackled, was arrested in May 2014 and charged with lying to investigators; he has been held in federal custody since that time.
A deal with prosecutors could result in a sentence of two-and-a-half years in prison, less time served, said U.S. District Judge William Young, who did not immediately accept the deal. If convicted at trial, he could have faced up to 20 years in prison.
Young scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 18.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, is also on trial in the same courthouse on charges connected to the April 15, 2013, bombing and the fatal shooting death of a police officer three days later. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died hours after the shooting following a gunbattle with police. (Editing by Jonathan Oatis)