Manchester woman found guilty of lying about role in Rwandan genocide
CONCORD - A federal jury on Thursday found Beatrice Munyenyezi of Manchester guilty of lying about her role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide to illegally gain U.S. citizenship.
Munyenyezi, 43, hung her head and wept at the defense table when the two guilty verdicts were read during her second trial on the charges in U.S. District Court - the same court where she was sworn in as a U.S. citizen a decade earlier.
U.S. District Court Judge Steven J. McAuliffe immediately revoked her U.S. citizenship and turned the mother of three over to the custody of U.S. marshals pending sentencing June 3. She faces a maximum 10 years in federal prison.
"Munyenyezi will be held accountable for disguising her role as a participant in the Rwandan genocide," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, which investigated the case.
"I am hopeful that this case will send a message to others like Munyenyezi: HSI will never allow our country to be a place where individuals seeking to distance themselves from their pasts can hide or evade detection," Foucart added in a statement.
The government argued Munyenyezi belonged to the ruling Hutu party and was a ring leader of its extremist youth militia. They said she oversaw killings and rapes of mostly ethnic Tutsis from a roadblock she worked outside the hotel her husband's family owned in the Butare province of Rwanda. An estimated 800,000 mostly ethnic Tutsis were killed in the three-month period known as the Rwandan genocide.
Munyenyezi had been living at her home in Manchester with her twin daughters - both high school seniors - since her first trial ended in a mistrial last March and she was released on bail April 12.
After hearing evidence and testimony for 11 days, the panel of eight male and four female jurors began deliberating at 9 a.m. Thursday. Court officers confirmed they reached a verdict about 1:20 p.m.
"I think it's the right outcome," Assistant U.S. Attorney John A. Capin said after the verdict. He prosecuted the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke S. Chakravarty.
Munyenyezi sobbed and clung to defense attorney Mark E. Howard after the verdicts were read. One of her twin daughters, Saro, 18, quietly wept from her seat in the front row of the gallery, then ran from the courtroom. Her twin sister, Simbi, was not present, nor was their older sister, Charlene, who is a student at Syracuse University.
"The jury deliberated. We have to respect their verdict," defense attorney David W. Ruoff said. He said he would appeal to the First Circuit Court in Boston.
Once the criminal process is done, Ruoff predicted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would send Munyenyezi back to her homeland "in a heartbeat."
"She is going to be sent back to Rwanda now and then she will be killed," Ruoff added.
But ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein dismissed that claim as unsubstantiated.
"The removal decisions will be made by an immigration judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review," Feinstein said. They will begin after Munyenyezi is sentenced in federal court, he added.
Munyenyezi arrived in New York City in 1998 as a refugee, and moved to New Hampshire in 2002. She was arrested at her Manchester home in 2010.
She has earned at least one year pre-trial confinement credit.
Munyenyezi's husband, Shalom Ntahobali, and his mother, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, were tried before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and convicted in 2011 of genocide and human rights violations. They are serving life prison terms and appealing their convictions.
Munyenyezi's sister, Prudence Kantengwa, was convicted last May in U.S. District Court in Boston of perjury stemming from her immigration proceedings. She is appealing her conviction.