Feds ask for 10 years in jail for Rwandan 'mass murderer' they allowed into the country
Manchester mother Beatrice Munyenyezi is portrayed as a "mass murderer" who wielded a ruthless brand of justice when deciding who would live and who would die from her post at a hotel roadblock during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, federal prosecutor say.
"Munyenyezi played a direct and indirect role in the systematic murder of hundreds, if not thousands of people," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aloke Chakravarty and John Capin wrote in their sentencing memorandum.
They will ask the court to impose a 10-year prison term when Munyenyezi, 43, is sentenced in U.S. District Court in Concord Wednesday on two counts of lying to immigration officials to illegally gain entry to the United States and become a citizen in 2003.
Defense attorneys, however, depict Munyenyezi as a self-made success story — a single mother of three daughters who immersed herself in American culture since she arrived in the U.S. as a refugee in 1998. She learned English, was gainfully employed, and contributed to the community.
Defense attorneys seek a sentence of less than 12 months so her crimes won't be considered aggravated felonies during immigration proceedings. This could make the difference between Munyenyezi being deported to her native Rwanda — where they fear she will face severe punishment, if not death — or being removed to other countries.
"It may affect which countries would agree to take her," defense attorney David W. Ruoff said Friday.
The government said Munyenyezi belonged to the ruling Hutu party and was a ring leader of its extremist youth militia.
As such, she oversaw killings and rapes of mostly ethnic Tutsi 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 from April to early July 1994 that is known as the Rwandan genocide.
Munyenyezi already served 27 months of pre-trial confinement. A less than 12-month sentence would result in her immediate transfer to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for processing and removal proceedings, Ruoff said.
After hearing testimony for 11 days, a federal jury on Feb. 21 convicted Munyenyezi of two counts of making false statements to government officials to conceal her involvement in the Rwandan genocide and illegally gaining entry to the U.S. Her first trial on the charges ended in a mistrial last year.
"The government has steadfastly treated this case as a genocide case, tried this case as a genocide case, and now wants to sentence this case as if it is a genocide case. However, it is a false-statement case," defense attorneys Ruoff and Mark E. Howard argued in their sentencing memorandum.
The false statement Munyenyezi is convicted of involved no violence or other criminal activity, they said.
But prosecutors claim the facts about which Munyenyezi lied form the basis of the crimes for which she was convicted and cannot be separated from them.
U.S. District Court Judge Steven J. McAuliffe revoked Munyenyezi's U.S. citizenship upon her conviction.
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.
Her sister, Prudence Kantengwa, was convicted in May 2011 in U.S. District Court in Boston of perjury stemming from her immigration proceedings.
Munyenyezi moved to New Hampshire in 2002, where she worked as a court interpreter and for the Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
She was studying for her bachelor's degree in political science at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester when she was arrested at her Manchester home in 2010.