LEWISTON — A Lewiston man charged with manslaughter in the 2018 death of Donald Giusti near Kennedy Park will remain in jail, a judge ruled Thursday.

Emmanuel Nkurunziza, 18, sits Thursday afternoon in 8th District Court in Lewiston next to his mother, Agnes Nyirafishi, as they listen to arguments for his release into the custody of his parents. Nkurunziza is charged in the death last summer of Donald Giusti in a brawl that started at Kennedy Park. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Emmanuel Nkurunziza, 18, was charged earlier this month with assaulting another inmate at a South Portland youth facility. After he was released on $500 bail, Nkurunziza was taken to Androscoggin County Jail in Auburn, where he has been housed in medium-security protective custody because of the manslaughter charge he faces as a juvenile defendant.

His lawyer, Allan Lobozzo, sought to have his client released to home confinement with his parents and siblings, or into the custody of New Beginnings, a youth crisis shelter.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea argued Nkurunziza should remain at the jail pending a hearing at the end of the month to determine whether he should be tried on the manslaughter charge as an adult or as a juvenile, especially in light of the new assault charge against him.

Prosecutors are seeking to have him tried as an adult on the manslaughter charge.

Nkurunziza turned 17 about a month before the June 12, 2018, nighttime melee on Knox Street that led to the death of the 38-year-old Lewiston man at a local hospital three days after he was assaulted.

Police said Nkurunziza had admitted to having thrown a rock into a crowd that is believed to have struck Giusti in the head. Nkurunziza reportedly told police he had not seen where his rock landed. A witness, however, told police he had seen the rock when it was thrown and when it landed, striking Giusti.

A medical examiner determined the cause of Giusti’s death to be blunt-force trauma that included two “significant areas” of trauma to Giusti’s head and brain.

On Thursday, Judge Rick Lawrence said that releasing Nkurunziza to house arrest would overburden his stay-at-home mother, who is already responsible for five children that range in age from almost 2 to 16.

“While this court does recognize the ability of mothers to sometimes do superhuman tasks,” Lawrence said, supervision of Nkurunziza would fall largely on her because his father works outside the home for much of the week.

“I believe that given her other responsibilities,” Lawrence said, “that’s asking a bit too much at this point.”

The judge echoed Zainea’s concerns that the parents, who required an interpreter in the courtroom, may not be able to communicate to authorities if Nkurunziza were to violate the terms of his house arrest.

A jail officer told the judge Nkurunziza was being held in a special protective custody block with about a dozen inmates who are considered less aggressive than the general population. The only time Nkurunziza would mix with the other inmates would be during recreation or when being taken to court, Sgt. George Carter said.

Lawrence held out the possibility Nkurunziza could be released to a less-restrictive alternative than jail if circumstances were to change and the juvenile corrections officer assigned to his case were to approve his release.

Lobozzo said Nkurunziza’s parents expect to move out of their Howe Street apartment, near to where the brawl occurred. They are hoping to be accepted for housing soon at Pleasant View Acres in Lewiston.

Nkurunziza had been doing well at Long Creek, Lobozza said, but was bothered by how some residents were treating him and how they referred to his race.

“The ventilation system at the youth center was used as a means to communicate racial slurs that were communicated throughout the entire population,” which led to the alleged assault, Lobozzo said.

Lobozzo pointed to a glowing evaluation of Nkurunziza just released by psychologist Peter Donnelly, whom the court asked to perform a mental assessment of Nkurunziza for the upcoming bind-over hearing.

Lobozzo stressed his client had no criminal history leading up to his April arrest on the manslaughter charge.

Donnelly wrote that Nkurunziza’s “tendency to hold in his anger until it overflows is not one that is conducive for being around more maladaptive behaving peers. It would be most concerning to have him exposed in the adult system to true antisocial and criminal thinking adults.”

“There’s little evidence that Emmanuel presents a danger to the public in general,” Lobozzo read from the report. “He does not demonstrate criminal thinking tendencies. He’s not impulsive, nor does he use substances that could increase the possibility of aberrant behavior.”

Instead, Nkurunziza “functions as a rather pro-social, well-intentioned, shy and respectful youth who is future oriented for pro-social goals,” Lobozzo continued.

Donnelly’s report was completed after the alleged assault July 3 against a juvenile at Long Creek Youth Development Center, Lobozzo noted.

That conduct “is an exception to this assessment and may be reflective of the stressors in that particular environment,” Lobozzo read from Donnelly’s report.

Zainea objected to Lobozzo’s use of the recently delivered report to argue Nkurunziza’s detention, arguing it was intended to be used solely for use at the bind-over hearing.

filed under: