LEWISTON — A local teen charged with manslaughter in the 2018 death of 38-year-old Donald Giusti is expected to be released from jail Thursday.

Emmanuel Nkurunziza, left, appears Monday in 8th District Court in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Emmanuel Nkurunziza, 18, will be released into the custody of a couple at their home more than 20 miles from Lewiston where he will be under house arrest with electronic monitoring by the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Prosecutors and the defense rested their cases Wednesday in 8th District Court where a judge is expected to decide whether there was probable cause to charge Nkurunziza with manslaughter and whether he should be bound over from juvenile court and be tried as an adult.

Both sides must file written arguments by Aug. 14 on the issues of probable cause and bind-over. The judge expected to make a decision by Labor Day.

Meanwhile, Nkurunziza will stay with the couple who are friends of his family through church. His parents, who live two doors down from Giusti’s family, have applied for housing in a different part of the city in hopes that their son can join them there in the future.

Giusti, of Lewiston, was apparently struck by a rock and knocked to the pavement during a brawl on Knox Street near Kennedy Park on June 12, 2018, police said. He died three days later from blunt-force trauma to his head and torso, according to a medical examiner. Witnesses said a group of largely Somali youths clashed with more than a dozen white men that night around 10:30 p.m.

Police said Nkurunziza admitted to having thrown a rock but hadn’t seen where it landed. A witness has said he saw Nkurunziza throw the rock and saw it hit Giusti on the head. Two police officers who viewed videos of the scene that night identified Nkurunziza as the person who threw an object that appeared to have felled Giusti.

Detectives who interviewed Nkurunziza testified Wednesday that they questioned him without a parent and hadn’t provided an interpreter when he asked for one.

Nkurunziza, who turned 18 in May, had just turned 17 at the time of Giusti’s death and during his two interviews with police on June 19 and 26 in 2018.

During his first interview, detectives asked him before reading him his Miranda warning whether he threw a rock during the melee. Investigators had read him his rights roughly 50 minutes into the interview, one of the detectives said.

Nkurunziza had asked for an interpreter roughly 25 minutes into the interview, but was apparently told he was “doing fine so far,” defense attorney Allan Lobozzo said.

Lewiston police Detective Roland Godbout testified that another detective had apparently gotten permission from Nkurunziza’s mother to question him alone.

Godbout said Nkurunziza appeared to understand the detectives most of the time and when he didn’t, he would tell them so they could clarify.

The second interview was held in a Maine Medical Center room in Portland where Nkurunziza had been visiting his younger brother, who was a patient there.

Two detectives, one local and one from Maine State Police, went to the hospital in plain clothes, with guns, badges and handcuffs visible on their belts and stood by the door, State Police Detective David Coflesky testified Wednesday.

Nkurunziza agreed to speak with them and didn’t ask for an interpreter, Coflesky said.

“If I’d known he needed an interpreter, we would have brought one,” Coflesky said.

Other than the detectives, no adults were present in the room, he said.

“I was told we had permission to speak with him,” he said.

Coflesky said they never read Nkurunziza the Miranda warning.

Nkurunziza was never told he was under arrest at either of the interviews, the detectives said.

A clinical psychologist who examined and tested Nkurunziza under court order testified Wednesday that he spent a total of about five hours with the teen in May and June for his assessment.

He said Nkurunziza suffered from adjustment disorder from having been born Congolese in a Rwanda refugee camp. He spent most of his life there before coming to this country about three years ago.

He described the teen as shy, polite and respectful, with a sense of humor.

Because of his limited language skills, Nkurunziza would hold back his feelings and become frustrated, Peter Donnelly testified.

He said he met with Nkurunziza three times, the second two with an interpreter.

There was no interpreter at the first interview.

“He did a fair job,” Donnelly said. “He gives thoughtful responses as best he can.”

There were no indicators of maladaptive behavior, he said. No issues of psychosis or mental illness.

But his arrest in April left him “feeling mistrustful of even his closest friends,” Donnelly said.

Until his arrest, Nkurunziza had no criminal history, no history of substance abuse or school behavior problems, he said.

“He’s not an impulsive person,” Donnelly said.

When he was detained at the Long Creek Youth Development Center after his manslaughter arrest, Nkurunziza was cited for being involved in a mutual fight when he pushed another resident who called him a “bitch.”

Another time, he broke a shelf in his room after he’d been strip-searched.

But Nkurunziza was transferred to Androscoggin County Jail’s protective custody in Auburn after he attacked a resident at the youth center, punching him and throwing him to the floor after that juvenile reportedly called him the “N-word” through the center’s ventilation system.

Donnelly said that incident seemed “out of character.”

“The help that he needs is using words for problem-solving,” Donnelly said. Up to that point, Nkurunziza had adopted a strategy of simply avoiding situations of conflict, he said.

Giusti’s father, Brian Thompson, who sat through the three-day hearing this week with his family, said Wednesday he was discouraged by the judicial proceedings.

“I think they slapped us in the face,” he said, referring to police who investigated the case and conducted interviews.

“They dropped the ball,” he said. “They talked to these kids without their parents. They talked to them without bringing an interpreter with them.”

He said the judge shouldn’t have allowed Nkurunziza to leave the jail for house arrest, citing prior acts of violence involving the teen.

Thompson said Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, who is prosecuting the case for the state, told him and his family Wednesday: “There’s a good chance he could walk on everything.”

Thompson said he’s been getting a lot of phone calls asking what he plans to do about the situation.

“‘They ain’t gonna give us no justice,'” the callers say.

His options are limited, he said. He could hire a lawyer and an investigator and have them investigate, he said.

“Their side’s laughing and, meanwhile, my son’s dead,” he said. “I’m never gonna see him again.”

A favorable ruling for the teen could “cause more trouble” among Giusti’s friends, Thompson said.

“I can’t tell them what to do,” he said. “I tell them we’re a peaceful family. We come in peace. I don’t want no violence.”


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