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United States v. Kantengwa

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

March 25, 2015

PRUDENCE KANTENGWA, a/k/a Prudentienne Kantengwa, Defendant, Appellant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Judith H. Mizner, Assistant Federal Public Defender, for appellant.

Mark T. Quinlivan, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Carmen M. Ortiz, United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Thompson and Barron, Circuit Judges.


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LYNCH, Chief Judge.

Prudence Kantengwa, also known as Prudentienne Kantengwa, is a member of a prominent political family allegedly involved in the Rwandan genocide. She appeals her convictions for perjury and obstruction of justice based on false statements she made in connection with her 2004 application for asylum in the United States and subsequent removal

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proceedings. See 18 U.S.C. § § 1621(1), 1505. Those false statements concerned (1) her truthfulness on previous immigration documents, in which she had misrepresented her and her late husband's political affiliations and government employment; and (2) the presence of a roadblock outside Hotel Ihuriro (also known as " Hotel Ilhuliro" ) during her stay there at the start of the genocide. Unlike her sister, Beatrice Munyenyezi, whose case is also decided this day, there is no evidence that Kantengwa participated in the genocide, only that she " socialized and sympathized" with those who did, and then sought to distance herself from it by lying. See United States v. Munyenyezi, No. 13-1950, 781 F.3d 532, (1st Cir. Mar. 25, 2015).

Kantengwa challenges her convictions on numerous grounds, all aimed at undermining the requisite findings that her statements were material to the immigration judge's decision, and that there was, in fact, a roadblock in front of Hotel Ihuriro while she was there (such that her averments to the contrary were false). These challenges are based on issue preclusion, sufficiency of the evidence, the adequacy of the jury instructions, and evidentiary decisions.[1] We cannot say the district court committed any error of law or abused its wide discretion. We affirm.


A. Rwanda, The Genocidal Spring of 1994

Until civil war broke out in the spring of 1994, Kantengwa lived with her family in Kigali, Rwanda. Her family was politically active: She and her husband, Athanase Munyemana, were both members of the then-ruling party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (" MRND" ). Munyemana worked for the government in various senior capacities, including for the Service Central de Renseignment and, after the Service Central de Renseignment was decentralized, as head of its internal intelligence division. Kantengwa, one of the few female lawyers in Rwanda at the time, served as section chief of the automobile insurance section of the parastatal national insurance company, Sonarwa.[2]

The killings began shortly after President Habyarimana's plane was shot down on April 6, 1994, throwing Rwanda into turmoil and sparking the three-month genocide that would claim the lives of 700,000 to 800,000 Rwandans.[3] Six days later, on April 12, 1994, Kantengwa left Kigali with Munyemana and their children in a military escort and made a harrowing journey to Butare to stay with Kantengwa's sister,

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Munyenyezi, at Hotel Ihuriro. Munyemana left after one night to join the new government elsewhere. Kantengwa and her children would remain at the hotel for about six weeks, through the end of May 1994.

The genocide was conducted by the party to which Kantengwa and her family belonged. It began with mass slaughters of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in central locations; later, the genocide's perpetrators would use patrols and roadblocks to weed out and kill survivors. The Service de Renseignment, with whom Munyemana held a senior position, was one of the organizations involved in committing the genocide, and many senior members of the MRND were implicated.

During the first two weeks of the genocide, the people of Butare had largely resisted becoming involved. But on April 19, 1994, the new Rwandan president, Theodore Sindikubwabo, came to Butare and gave a speech that made clear that those who did not support his new regime would be targeted. Those loyal to the new regime, who had already been laying the groundwork for the genocide, responded to the call to action and set up numerous roadblocks.

Among those loyal to the regime were Kantengwa's in-laws and hosts at Hotel Ihuriro: Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the hotel's owner, and her son, Shalom Ntahobali, who was married to Kantengwa's sister. Dr. Timothy Longman, a professor of political science and an expert on the Rwandan genocide, testified that Hotel Ihuriro is believed to have been the site of one of the more notorious roadblocks that was set up following President Sindikubwabo's speech. The jury found that this roadblock at Hotel Ihuriro was in place by the time Kantengwa left Hotel Ihuriro in late May, and so her statements that there was no roadblock while she was there were false.

Although there is no evidence that Kantengwa participated in the genocide or at the roadblock, she lived, socialized, and sympathized with those who did. For example, her brother-in-law, Shalom Ntahobali, led the Interahamwe militia in creating the roadblock, and the participation of Kantengwa's sister, Munyenyezi, in the roadblock is the subject of another appeal before this court. See United States v. Munyenyezi, No. 13-1950, 781 F.3d 532, (1st Cir. Mar. 25, 2015). Kantengwa's attempts to distance herself from this history while immigrating to the United States form the basis of her convictions and this appeal.

B. Visa & Asylum Applications to the United States

Kantengwa and her family left Rwanda in July 1994 when the opposition gained control of the country, eventually arriving in Kenya. Beginning in 1995, Kantengwa made several unsuccessful attempts to gain admission to the United States.[4] But on September 5, 2001, Kantengwa finally received conditional approval for a nonimmigrant visa, subject to her completion of a U.S. Department of State security advisory opinion known as the " Rwanda Questionnaire."

The Rwanda Questionnaire assists the U.S. Department of State in screening out genocide participants seeking refuge in the United States. All Rwandan applicants living outside Rwanda were required to

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complete the questionnaire to obtain non-immigrant visas. The State Department used the questionnaire to identify applicants with relevant personal or family ties to political and governmental organizations that were implicated in the genocide, including the MRND and Service de Renseignment. Under department policy, applicants who had such personal or family ties required further investigation to ensure that they were not personally implicated.

In completing the Rwanda Questionnaire, Kantengwa answered two questions falsely. The first concerned whether she or any immediate family member was ever a member of several specified organizations, including the Service de Renseignment (for which her husband had worked). The second concerned whether she or any immediate family member was ever a member of a political party, including the MRND (of which she was once a member). Kantengwa responded " No" to both questions. The Department of State approved her application, and she received her visa on March 4, 2002. She subsequently made two brief visits to the United States to speak at a conference and to visit family.

Kantengwa last entered the United States on January 29, 2004, and applied for asylum on March 8, 2004. She was referred to removal proceedings on March 3, 2005 for having overstayed her visa.

Kantengwa conceded removability for having remained past her authorized visit, but sought relief from removal, again in the form of asylum, as well as in the form of withholding of removal, protection under the Convention Against Torture, and, in the alternative, voluntary departure. The Boston Immigration Court held six testimonial hearings for the adjudication of these claims. On July 21, 2009,[5] the immigration judge granted Kantengwa's applications for asylum and withholding of removal, and so did not reach her requests for protection under the Convention Against Torture or for voluntary departure. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed on June 14, 2010, and later denied the government's motion for reconsideration. Kantengwa's perjury convictions are based on statements she made during these removal proceedings.

C. Procedural History

On December 18, 2008, the grand jury returned a fifteen-count indictment charging Kantengwa with fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents; perjury; and obstruction of proceedings before departments and agencies. See 18 U.S.C § § ...

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