Collins and Pingree agree: Charge Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a civilian

Update – This post was updated at 5:47 p.m. on 4/22/13 with additional comments from U.S. Sen. Angus King and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, lawmakers in Washington have been debating how federal prosecutors should pursue justice from the lone surviving suspect.

Federal officials delayed reading Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, his Miranda rights immediately following his arrest, citing a “public safety” exemption and now have officially filed federal charges against him,  not as an “enemy combatant” as some Republican senators called for.

Tsarnaev, who legally immigrated from the Chechen region with his family about 10 years ago, received his U.S. citizenship last fall.

Maine’s entire delegation said Monday they support the administration’s decision to prosecute Tsarnaev in federal court.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a former chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in the time before Tsarnaev was arrested, said law enforcement should interrogate him before informing of his right to remain silent in hopes of gleaning important information. Following his arrest and in light of the federal charges filed Monday, she said she remains concerned about the proliferation of
“homegrown Islamist extremists.”

“I remain seriously concerned that individuals within the United States could be inspired by al Qaeda’s violent ideology to plan and execute attacks, even if they do not receive direct orders from, or are not directly affiliated with, al Qaeda,” Collins said in a statement.  “We must increase our efforts to prevent radicalization in the first place, identify radicalization when it occurs, and interdict the recruitment of U.S. citizens or legal residents for terrorism.”

A spokesman said Collins, who also serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, agrees with the administration’s decision not to try him as an enemy combatant.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat representing Maine’s 1st Congressional District, said she believes the civilian courts are the proper place for Tsarnaev to be tried and agreed with Collins that “he should be mirandized after it’s been determined that there are no immediate threats to public safety.”

“The civilian criminal justice system in America is one of the best in the world, and we should let it run its course and put Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on trial, Pingree said in a statement. “Local, state and federal authorities have done an extremely thorough job in collecting evidence and there is no reason why civilian courts can’t use that evidence to convict anyone responsible for the bombings in Boston and hand out an appropriate punishment.”

U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he plans to use his role as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee to review law enforcement    actions.

“I support the Department of Justice’s decision today to bring charges in U.S. District Court against the primary suspect in the attacks last week in Boston,” King said in a statement. “I look forward to discussing these issues with senior FBI officials and will make certain our government has the tools and resources it needs to keep the American people safe in the face of such brutal and indiscriminate terrorism.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat representing Maine’s 2nd congressional District, echoed the comments of his fellow delegation members.

“I will continue to follow the court case, as will the rest of the country, and have faith that our time-tested judicial system will be able to bring justice to the victims of this terrible tragedy,” he said in a statement.

Rebekah Metzler

About Rebekah Metzler

Rebekah Metzler is a political writer with U.S. News and World Report, who hails from the state of Maine where she covered state politics for the Lewiston Sun Journal and MaineToday Media. She spent much of 2012 covering the presidential campaign and particularly enjoyed her time on the road in states like Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Ohio and Ohio. Metzler earned her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and is a Bowdoin College grad.