The U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts has announced that it’s charged the surviving suspected perpetrator of the Boston Marathon bombing with “conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property in the United States resulting in death” and with “malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.”
If the mention of WMD is slightly surprising, that’s because the criminal definition of “weapons of mass destruction“ is quite different from the way in which the term is normally used. As a criminal matter, the term refers to weapons we’d think of as WMDs — biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons — but also “destructive devices,” explosive weapons above a certain size, which the two brothers’ pressure-cooker bombs apparently exceed.
The man’s first court appearance occurred this morning in his room at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he is in serious condition but is awake. He’ll be tried in the federal civilian court system, rather than being treated as an enemy combatant, and his charges carry the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison, though the prosecution hasn’t decided yet what punishment to seek.
The New York Times has now posted a copy of the criminal charges.