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Munyenyezi v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

October 10, 2019

Beatrice Munyenyezi, Petitioner
United States of America, Respondent

          Richard Guerriero, Esq., John A. Capin, AUSA, Mark Quinlivan, AUSA



         Opinion No. 2019 DNH 178 In 2010, a grand jury charged Beatrice Munyenyezi with having unlawfully procured citizenship or naturalization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1425(a) (Count One) and 1425(b) (Count Two). In February of 2013, a petit jury convicted her on both counts. She was sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment of 120 months and, pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1451(e), the court revoked her citizenship. Munyenyezi's convictions and sentence were affirmed on appeal. United States v. Munyenyezi, 781 F.3d 532 (1st Cir. 2015).

         Subsequently, Munyenyezi filed a petition seeking habeas corpus relief, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In it, she asserted that defense counsel provided constitutionally deficient representation; the government failed to disclose exculpatory material prior to trial; and she was entitled to sentence relief under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). Then, after the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Maslenjak v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 1918 (2017), Munyenyezi amended her petition to allege an additional ground for habeas relief: that the jury had been improperly instructed on the element of “materiality.” The court denied Munyenyezi's habeas petition, concluding that she was not denied effective assistance of counsel, and neither her Brady claim nor her Johnson claim had merit. It did not specifically discuss her Maslenjak claim regarding the allegedly defective jury instructions on materiality.

         Munyenyezi sought, and obtained, a certificate of appealability as to one issue: whether “the jury was given inaccurate instructions on her criminal liability” under Maslenjak. The court of appeals vacated the judgment denying Munyenyezi's habeas petition and remanded the matter so this court might “address petitioner's Maslenjak claim in the first instance.” Judgment of the Court of Appeals (document no. 19) at 1.

         For the reasons discussed, the court concludes that Munyenyezi is not entitled to habeas relief on the grounds asserted and, therefore, her petition is denied.


         I. Background.

         Beatrice Munyenyezi is a Hutu from Rwanda. The factual background describing her involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide - during which Hutus murdered hundreds of thousands of Tutsis - is set forth in the court of appeals' decision. See United States v. Munyenyezi, 781 F.3d 532 (2015). By way of background, the court observed that:

Over the course of 100 days, roving bands of Hutus (Rwanda's majority ethnic group) slaughtered hundreds of thousands of their countrymen, most of them Tutsis (a minority group long-dominant in Rwanda). Some of the crazed killers belonged to the Interahamwe, the dreaded militia of a Hutu political party known by the initials, MRND. About 7, 000 Rwandans died each day, often butchered by machete-wielding Interahamwes at roadblocks set up to catch fleeing Tutsis. And these killers didn't just kill - they raped, tortured, and disfigured too.

Id. at 535. The evidence at trial overwhelmingly established, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Munyenyezi was associated with the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development, also known as the “MRND, ” and that she oversaw one of the infamous roadblocks at which so many Tutsi's were murdered. As noted by the court of appeals,

[Vestine Nyiraminani] testified that in April 1994 she and her sister got stopped at the roadblock near the Hotel Ihuriro. . . . Seeing that their cards identified them as Tutsis, Munyenyezi ordered them to sit at the side of the road with other Tutsis. A half hour later, soldiers marched them into the woods. One of the thugs then plunged a knife into Nyiraminani's sister's head. Nyiraminani escaped. But she never saw her sister again.
Jean Paul Rutaganda testified about a time in April 1994 when (as a 15 year old) he and some other Tutsis hid at an Episcopal school near the Hotel Ihuriro. Rutaganda spotted Munyenyezi (he knew her by name) at the roadblock with Interahamwes, wearing an MRND uniform, asking for identity cards, and writing in a notebook. “She was counting, ” Rutaganda said, “registering dead Tutsis and others who were not yet dead.” Tutsis, he added, “were killed day and night” in the nearby forest - something he knew from the “screaming” and the “crying.”
Tutsi Consolee Mukeshimana also saw Munyenyezi around this time. Mukeshimana had seen her before (at Mukeshimana's sister's house). And at the roadblock Mukeshimana watched a fatigues-wearing Munyenyezi check IDs and lead Tutsis to other “Interahamwe so they could get killed.”
Desperate to leave Butare because of the killing, Tutsi Vincent Sibomana tried to run but got detained at the roadblock. Munyenyezi asked for an Id. He knew who she was because he had seen her buy beer at a store where he had worked. And he had also seen an MRND-shirt-wearing Munyenyezi walking around Butare. Anyhow, Sibomana was too young to have an ID card, apparently (he was only 14). An irate Interahamwe hit his head with a rifle butt. And he fell into a ditch. More Tutsis were there. “Beatrice” - to quote Sibomana's testimony - then told the other Interahamwes to “kill” them all. Sibomana bolted. But he saw and heard Tutsis “being killed, ” hacked by “machetes” and bludgeoned with “clubs.”

Id. at 537. See also Id. at 538 (“[D]ressed as an Interahamwe, she personally inspected IDs at the checkpoint, separated those who would live from those who would die (and die gruesomely), and kept records of the ghastly going-ons.”).

         It was also established at trial - again, beyond any reasonable doubt - that Munyenyezi lied (repeatedly) on various documents that she submitted in support of her application for entry into the country as a refugee, including the “Rwandan Questionnaire”[1] for visa applicants, her application for permanent residence, and, most importantly for present purposes, her application for naturalization. The government also established that Munyenyezi lied to immigration officials to conceal her participation, both directly and as an aider and abettor, in kidnapping, false imprisonment, rape, and murder -all in connection with the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

         At issue is Munyenyezi's conviction on Count One of the indictment, which charged her with having knowingly procured her naturalization contrary to law - that is, by knowingly providing false information as to material facts in her Application for Naturalization, Form N-400 - in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1425(a). In her amended petition seeking habeas corpus relief, Munyenyezi asserts that the jury was improperly instructed on the definition of “material” ...

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