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Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014
Crime & Courts

Barry Cohen representing family of slain Chechen tied to Boston bombing

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TAMPA — Two Tampa Bay attorneys will represent the family of a Chechen immigrant shot to death in Orlando during questioning by the FBI and other agents about his ties to one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

The announcement was made Tuesday at a news conference in Tampa by Abdulbaki Todashev, father of Ibragim Todashev, who was fatally shot in May.

The attorneys, Barry Cohen of Tampa and Eric Ludin of Clearwater, will work with the family to decide whether to take civil action once State Attorney Jeffrey Lashton in Orlando completes an investigation into the shooting, Ludin said.

The father, who is visiting the U.S. from Chechnya while the investigation is under way, appeared at the news conference and through an interpreter read a prepared statement defending his son.

“He did not do anything wrong,” Abdulbaki Todashev said. “He was simply not capable of doing it. He was a very good boy and he wanted to live.”

He added, “I’m certain we’’ll be able to receive justice.”

Abdulbaki Todaschev plans to remain in the U.S. as long as he can so he can learn the results of the investigation, Ludin said.

Ibragim Todashev, 27, was killed while being questioned in his Orlando home by FBI agents and investigators from Massachusetts and Florida. Authorities originally said Todashev lunged at an FBI agent with a knife. They later said it was no longer clear what happened.

Ludin said the FBI was questioning Todashev because he was acquainted with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers. Todashev was not friends with Tsarnaev, Ludin said, but was an aspiring mixed martial arts fighter who worked out in the same Boston gym.

“Merely being an acquaintance, merely being a Muslim, doesn’t mean he is not deserving of justice,” Ludin said.

Abdulbaki Todashev described his son as an energetic man who was “the heart and soul of the company of his friends.”

“My son is a very good boy. He was innocent,” Todashev said. “I hope and pray no mother and father would have to endure what I have.”

Hassan Shibly, the executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said at Tuesday’s news conference that the FBI was talking to anyone who had contact with Tsarnaev.

Shibly said CAIR officials hired a private investigator to talk to Todashev’s friends and examine his Orlando apartment, where he was alone with FBI agents while he was interviewed for about four hours.

Todashev was shot at least seven times by an FBI agent, Shibly said. That information came from Todashev’s family members, who washed his body as they prepared it for a traditional Muslim funeral, Shibly said.

The medical examiner’s office in Orlando has not released the autopsy report, saying they cannot make the results public because of the FBI’s ongoing investigation.

A separate investigation into Todashev’s death also is being led by the FBI in Washington. The FBI declined to comment.

Lee Bentley, the acting U.S. Attorney for Florida’s Middle District, which covers Tampa and Orlando, said Tuesday he’s confident the government’s investigation into Ibragim Todashev’s death will be thorough. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s civil rights department is also reviewing the case.

Ashton said last week he has received a preliminary report on the shooting from the U.S. Department of Justice about its investigation into Todashev’s death.

Ashton says there is no schedule for when he will complete his review.

Cohen, the Tampa attorney, said he got involved with Todashev’s case because several factors disturbed him.

“The FBI was slow in releasing their statement,” Cohen said about the days after the shooting. “No autopsy report was released to the family. It didn’t get past my smell test. And as time goes on, the smell gets worse.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

rreyes@tampatrib.com

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