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Thirty Counts Against Tsarnaev: What Do the Different Counts Mean? Part 3: Aiding, Abetting and Interstate Commerce.

In this three-part blog post, we are reviewing the individual criminal counts charged against Tsarnaev, and what they mean. The first part covered the 15 counts related to the actual bombing at the Boston Marathon, and the conspiracy leading up to the crime. The second part discussed the next 15 counts related to the subsequent attempted escape, MIT officer shooting, carjacking, and shootout with police. In this third and final segment, we will discuss what "aiding and abetting" means, and why there is so much about "interstate commerce" in the indictment.

Interstate Commerce

Another area of confusion may be all the reference in the indictment to "interstate and foreign commerce." The reason for this is that it relates to the federal jurisdiction over the case. This case involves allegations of a number of both federal and state crimes. Congress has passed laws which establish federal jurisdiction over crimes which affect "interstate commerce," even if the connection is indirect. For this reason, federal prosecutors still have to establish that the alleged crime has an effect on interstate commerce.

Accordingly, throughout the indictment, prosecutors allege the effects this case has on interstate commerce, including how people travel to the event from out of state, the interstate scope of the businesses affected, closure of businesses involved in interstate commerce, that items used to inspire and further the crime were obtained online, and the ATM machine used involves interstate banking.

Aiding and Abetting

Finally, all of these counts, with the exception of the conspiracy counts (1, 6 and 11), include a charge for "aiding and abetting." Under 18 U.S.C. § 2, acts of the perpetrator become the acts of the aider and abettor, and the person aiding and abetting can be charged with having done the acts himself. Anyone who aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures the commission of a crime is just as punishable as the person primarily responsible for the crime.

In this case, the prosecution would not necessarily have to prove that Tsarnaev was primarily responsible for the counts he is charged with, but if he aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced or procured the commission of the named violations, he could be punished just as if he were the person primarily responsible. This is not an independent offense from the underlying crimes, but allows the prosecution to charge these violations even if the defendant is not the primary actor.

Summary

We hope that this description of the alleged criminal violations has been useful to make sense of the indictment. There are a number of criminal counts that can be charged, even if they are not all successful. Additionally, because conspiracy and the use of a firearm in relation to a violent crime are additional charges, and each weapon of destruction can add an additional count, what may at first appear to be duplicate charges could be considered separate and additional violations.

According to the Justice Department, the details of the indictment are allegations, and Tsarnaev is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. A full copy of the grand jury indictment can be found here. A list of the 30 counts is provided below.

Boston Marathon Bombing

COUNT 1: Conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death.

COUNT 2: Use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 1)

COUNT 3: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 1)

COUNT 4: Use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 2)

COUNT 5: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 2)

COUNT 6: Conspiracy to bomb a place of public use resulting in death.

COUNT 7: Bombing of a place of public use resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 1)

COUNT 8: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 1)

COUNT 9: Bombing of a place of public use resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 2)

COUNT 10: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death; aiding and abetting.(Bomb 2)

COUNT 11: Conspiracy to maliciously destroy property resulting in personal injury and death.

COUNT 12: Malicious destruction of property resulting in personal injury and death; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 1)

COUNT 13: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 1)

COUNT 14: Malicious destruction of property resulting in personal injury and death; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 2)

COUNT 15: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 2)

Days Later Attempted Escape, Shooting and Carjacking

COUNT 16: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Count 1 Sean Collier)

COUNT 17: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Count 6 Sean Collier)

COUNT 18: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death; aiding and abetting. (Count 11 Sean Collier)

COUNT 19: Carjacking resulting in serious bodily injury; aiding and abetting. (Carjacking, with Injury to Officer Donohue)

COUNT 20: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; aiding and abetting.

COUNT 21: Interference with commerce by threats and violence; aiding and abetting. (Carjacking ATM Theft)

COUNT 22: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; aiding and abetting.

COUNT 23: Use of a weapon of mass destruction; aiding and abetting. (Bomb 3)

COUNT 24: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; aiding and abetting.

COUNT 25: Use of a weapon of mass destruction; aiding and abetting. (Pipe Bomb 1)

COUNT 26: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; aiding and abetting.

COUNT 27: Use of a weapon of mass destruction; aiding and abetting. (Pipe Bomb 2)

COUNT 28: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; aiding and abetting.

COUNT 29: Use of a weapon of mass destruction; aiding and abetting. (Pipe Bomb 3)

COUNT 30: Possession and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; aiding and abetting.

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