She is a 20-year-old student at Holmes Community College in Mississippi, uncertain at the moment of whether she’ll stick with her current career track. But Emily Jolly is fairly certain of this: Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev is no terrorist.
Jolly is among a growing legion of people who have examined enough of the mountain of “evidence” now available since last week’s bombings in Boston to be convinced the 19-year-old is innocent. Which is why, she says, she has taken to Twitter in recent days hoping to make the hashtag #freejahar a trending one, and of drumming up enough support for the hospitalized suspect to get him a “badass lawyer.”
Tsarnaev wasn’t even charged with a crime until Monday, and the government’s evidence has only begun to dribble out. But Jolly and thousands of other, mostly young people have already made up their minds, albeit with a wide array of conclusions. It was a setup. A false flag. Dzhokhar’s brother maybe did it, but not Dzhokhar. That Saudi guy was the ringleader. On and on and on.
Much of the support for Tsarnaev comes from another 20-year-old from Chelsea, Massachusetts, named Troy Crossley, who claims he is a friend of the suspect and who has been posting hundreds of tweets, links to pictures and hashtags, from #troycrossleytruth to #fuckthegovernment, over the past several days. Crossley didn’t respond to several attempts by The Daily Beast on Monday to talk with him, but one of his followers did: Jolly. And she explained at length in an interview conducted via Google Chat why she thinks the government is lying.
“Here is a kid with no known terrorist ties,” she said. “He is nineteen years old, he’s a US citizen, he has never been in trouble with the law previously, and the main reason—there’s no motive. There’s no evidence that Jahar was a radical Islamist. He barely even attended his local mosque. What reason does he have to hate the U.S.? He’s got scholarships from the state of Massachusetts. he’s a citizen, this is his home and it has been his home since he was nine years old.”
Asked how she knows what the evidence against Jahar is—given that most of it hasn’t been released yet—Jolly referred to Twitter.
“When I first started to express my opinions online, I found that so many of the people that know Jahar were expressing similar opinions,” she said. “Also, these people are being watched by the FBI. Why does the FBI care what these guys’ opinions are if they have evidence to prove otherwise?”
“He is nineteen years old, he’s a US citizen, he has never been in trouble with the law previously.”
Jolly and her cohorts have been researching the case ever since, they said, trying to pick apart holes in statements they hear on the media. Why would Tsarnaev tell the carjacking victim they were responsible for the bombings, as police allege? “Makes no sense.” Those unexploded bombs found in older brother Tamerlan’s apartment? “They didn’t live together.” How could Jahar have run away as quickly as he allegedly did with “multiple guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition?” What about this video with 350,000 views that maybe looks like he still had a backpack on after the bombs went off?
The problem, Jolly contends, is that “the majority of the ‘evidence’ we have to go on was ONLY seen by police and officials,” which is pretty much how the criminal-justice system works. If the government proves its case in court—releases a video of Jahar dropping a backpack, for example—“I will accept his guilt,” she said. “But until then I am not going to. If we don’t stand up for him now, it’s possible that he might not get a fair trial. They didn’t read him his Miranda rights, and yet he is a US citizen.”
Jolly cautions that she’s no “conspiracy theorist,” but this case has her rethinking everything, she said. Even her own future.
“This case has me re-assessing my choice of major,” she said. “I’m considering law. Criminal-defense attorney.”