Emmanuel Nkurunziza, left, confers Thursday with his lawyer, Jesse Archer, before sentencing at Cumberland County Superior Court for his part in the 2018 death of Donald Giusti in Lewiston in 2018. Andree Kehn

PORTLAND — The man who was sentenced in the death of 38-year-old Donald Giusti of Lewiston told his family in court Thursday that he was sorry for their loss.

Jim Thompson, the uncle of Donald Giusti, closes his statement Thursday with forgiving Emmanuel Nkurunziza before his sentencing at Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland for causing Giusti’s death in 2018 in Lewiston. Andree Kehn

The uncle of Giusti, who was apparently felled by a rock on June 12, 2018, near Kennedy Park in Lewiston, told 21-year-old Emmanuel Nkurunziza on Thursday that he forgave him.

With those expressions of sorrow and forgiveness, a four-year “ordeal” came to a close in Cumberland County Superior Court, Justice Michaela Murphy said Thursday.

Two days earlier, Nkurunziza had pleaded no contest to a charge of criminally negligent manslaughter.

On Thursday, Murphy approved an agreed-upon sentence of 10 years with all of that time suspended except for nine months, which he will serve in Cumberland County Jail starting on Sept. 30.

He will be credited for the several months he was held at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland and at two jails following his arrest.


Giusti’s death stemmed from the clash of a group of white men gathered in Kennedy Park and an assemblage of largely Somali teenagers who converged on Knox Street, which abuts the park.

Ill will had been long simmering between the two groups and culminated in a melee that night after someone who was in a vehicle that drove past the park reportedly fired a BB gun into the crowd.

Nkurunziza, who is Rwandan, had been in the park at the time of the shooting along with other Black youths.

According to Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, Giusti believed it was someone in Nkurunziza’s group who had done the shooting.

Giusti and his friends, who were intoxicated, confronted Nkurunziza and his group, Zainea said.

Then Giusti and his friends left the park to go to Knox Street, where the vehicle from which the BBs had been fired, had turned onto.


Someone in Giusti’s group who carried a barbell had struck Nkurunziza and his cousin.

Zainea said police would have testified had the case gone to trial that Nkurunziza had told them during an interview that he was angry that he and his cousin had been assaulted that night unprovoked “and so he threw the rock.”

He told police he didn’t know whether that rock had made contact, Zainea said. She said Nkurunziza’s cousin had apparently told him the rock he threw had hit Giusti.

Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy said the “very complicated set of facts” in the case contributed to its lengthy “ordeal” that was resolved without putting Giusti’s family through a hardship of a trial, only because the defense and prosecutors worked hard to find a compromise satisfactory to both sides.

Jim Thompson, Giusti’s uncle, spoke Thursday for the Giusti’s family, saying that “Donny was a very important part” of it.

Since that “dreadful night” in 2018, two more family members have died, Thompson said.


“What you caused wasn’t just the death of Donny,” Jim Thompson said.

The mother of one of Donald Giusti’s children took her life because she said she couldn’t go on as a single parent, Thompson said.

Donald Giusti’s father, Brian Thompson, died from heart failure a month ago, his brother, Jim, said Thursday.

“What you did that night has left a lot of scars that will be hard to fix or heal,” Jim Thompson told Nkurunziza. “We also know that we may never get any closure for the vicious act you are responsible for.”

Thompson told Nkurunziza the Bible instructs to forgive the sinner and not the sin.

“We forgive you for what you’ve done,” he said.


Emmanuel Nkurunziza, center, apologizes Thursday in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland for the harm he has brought on Donald Giusti and his family. Nkurunziza was sentenced for manslaughter in Giusti’s death in 2018 in Lewiston. Defense lawyer George Hess listens at left. Andree Kehn

In a plea bargain crafted in court Tuesday during what had been scheduled as a suppression hearing, Nkurunziza entered a Alford plea, not contesting the manslaughter charge, but only after prosecutors agreed to remove the element of recklessness from the charge.

Prosecutors also agreed to dismiss a charge of aggravated assault and drop an unrelated charge of simple assault against Nkurunziza.

By taking those steps, they helped ensure Nkurunziza would likely not be deported after serving his sentence.

Zainea said Thursday that Nkurunziza hadn’t brought a weapon to the melee that night, “rather, the death-producing object was randomly available on the street.”

Although Nkurunziza meant to throw the rock, “there is no evidence to suggest he intended the consequences of that” action, Zainea said.

She said it was difficult to find any comparable cases on which to base a sentence.


Although the effect of Giusti’s death on his family was considered a significant “aggravating” factor in his sentencing, the “mitigating” factors on his sentence were “numerous,” she said, outweighing those aggravating factors.

Nkurunziza was arrested in April 2019 and charged with manslaughter as a juvenile.

An 8th District Court judge heard arguments in July 2019 whether the then-teen should be bound over from juvenile to adult court, ruling in September 2019 that he should be tried as an adult.

A grand jury indicted him in November 2019 on charges of manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Nkurunziza had turned 17 about a month before the June 12, 2018. He had no prior criminal record.

Since he was freed on bail more than two years ago, he has completed high school as well as courses at Southern Maine Community College. Recently, he has been working at a full-time job, Zainea said.


All that time, he has been monitored by an electronic ankle bracelet.

He and his family moved out of the Lewiston area after his arrest. Had the case gone to trial, it would have been held in Portland due to extensive media coverage.

When Nkurunziza completes his incarceration, he will be on probation for four years. If he were to commit new criminal conduct or violate conditions of his release that prohibits contact with more than a dozen people, including Giusti’s family members and witnesses, he could be ordered to serve the suspended nine years and three months of his sentence.

In imposing the sentence Thursday, Murphy told Giusti’s family that there are two things that the court cannot do.

“They are beyond the capacity of any judge or any person. And that would be to try to craft a sentence that accurately reflects the value of the human life that was lost,” she said.

At the same time, Murphy said, it’s beyond the court’s ability to “address the longstanding problem between certain community groups.”

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