UPDATED: Federal judge gives NH woman convicted of lying about role in genocide 10 years in prison
CONCORD — A Manchester woman convicted of lying about her actions during the 1994 Rwandan genocide to obtain U.S. citizenship was sentenced Monday to 10 years in federal prison — the maximum.
U.S. District Court Judge Steven J. McAuliffe also sentenced Beatrice Munyenyezi to three years of supervised release. Her U.S. citizenship was revoked after a federal jury convicted her in February.
Munyenyezi came to the United States as a refugee in 1998, moved to Manchester in 2002 and became a citizen in 2003.
McAuliffe said Munyenyezi, 43, was "not a mere spectator" at the genocide. Although she has led a very different life in the United States, he said, Munyenyezi "stole it from someone who was a victim." He said she is not being held accountable for genocide, but for lying about her participation in it to obtain refugee status and later citizenship.
The prosecutors said Munyenyezi ordered rapes and killings of minority Tutsis at a roadblock outside a hotel that her husband's family owned in the province of Butare.
Her husband and mother-in-law were convicted by a United Nations International Tribunal in Tanzania and are serving life sentences.
Her sister, Prudence Katengwa, who was brought to the U.S. by Munyenyezi, was convicted last year of lying in her immigration proceedings.
Munyenyezi's defense team had sought a sentence of no more than one year. But after the sentencing, attended by her twin teenage daughters, defense attorney David Ruoff said the 10-year sentence "has a silver lining."
He said it keeps her in America, which enables her to have access to her children, including an older daughter.
Although Munyenyezi appeared to be weeping at one point during the sentencing, she was able to manage a smile for her twin daughters before being led away.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty, who argued for the maximum sentence, argued that Munyenyezi participated in the genocide, identifying people who "were killed because of her."
Chakravarty said she did not give due process to people during the genocide, but she has benefited from due process here.
He said the prosecution knew it was going to be a challenging case. But, he said, "Tolerating genocide is not an option."
Munyenyezi's daughters politely declined comment as they left the courthouse Monday, but her brother was eager to defend his sister and criticize both judge and prosecution.
Munyenyezi's brother, Jean-Marie Higiro, a communications professor at Western New England College in Springfield, Mass., said he is a Hutu who fled Rwanda.
He said he was assisted by the U.S. because he has a daughter who was born while he was a student here.
He said he was offended by the judge's comments, saying he had Hutu friends who fought the genocide and died as a result; he accused the judge of condemning all Hutus because of what happened.
Munyenyezi's first trial ended in a mistrial in 2012 after the jury deadlocked.
The case will be appealed to the First Circuit Court in Boston, Ruoff said.