Emmanuel Nkurunziza, left, sits Tuesday with his lawyer, Allan Lobozzo, at Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland. Sun Journal photo

PORTLAND — A Lewiston teen charged in the 2018 death of 38-year-old Donald Giusti near Kennedy Park in Lewiston pleaded not guilty Tuesday to manslaughter and aggravated assault.

Emmanuel Nkurunziza, 18, wearing a plaid shirt and gray suit jacket, appeared in Cumberland County Superior Court, where he entered denials to charges through an interpreter speaking in the Kinyarwanda language.

Nkurunziza is living in Biddeford with his parents, who moved to the York County city because his family had been living in downtown Lewiston, close to Giusti’s family.

On Tuesday, Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy allowed Nkurunziza to attend Biddeford High School, where he is expected to work toward a diploma.

Defense attorney Allan Lobozzo told Murphy his client had already earned eight of 24 credits needed to graduate while at Lewiston High School. During his time at Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, he earned an additional 2½ credits, Lobozzo said.

Murphy also cleared Nkurunziza to work part time to contribute to his family’s limited income as the oldest of the children and to earn elective credits toward graduation. His father had been recently laid off from a seasonal farm job.

“Therefore, there’s no meaningful income coming into this family,” Lobozzo said.

Murphy ordered Nkurunziza to continue wearing an electronic monitoring device that enables the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office to track his movements.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea asked that Nkurunziza continue wearing the device, citing his many unexcused absences from Lewiston High School while a student there.

Lobozzo argued the device may pose an impediment to Nkurunziza’s job search, but Murphy told him he could return to court to argue for its removal if that proved to be the case.

Nkurunziza’s release from jail has been supervised by Maine Pretrial Services, who wrote in a recent statement that it had no preference about the electronic monitoring.

Lobozzo said Nkurunziza has been confined to his home on house arrest and studying on his own. Starting next week, he’s expected to attend school in the mornings, freeing him up during afternoons for a job.

Lobozzo read from records penned by Nkurunziza’s teachers during the time he was at Long Creek.

Each of the half a dozen teachers described the teen as polite, engaged and well-behaved, Lobozzo said. The gym teacher noted Nkurunziza broke the center’s record for the standing broad jump at 8 feet, 8 inches.

“Judge, this is a young man who wants to get back to life,” Lobozzo said.

Zainea said prosecutors had no objections to the teen’s return to school and work, but asked that his attendance records at school be shared with the state.

“We should take this in steps and stages,” Murphy said. “There have been a lot of changes in the defendant’s life. I do not want to do anything to create further hardship for his family and siblings.”

Nkurunziza was arrested by state police in April and charged with manslaughter as a juvenile.

Eighth District Court Judge Rick Lawrence held a three-day hearing in July to determine whether there was probable cause for the charge and to hear arguments over whether the teen should be bound over from juvenile court to adult court. Lawrence ruled in September that Nkurunziza should be tried as an adult.

Nkurunziza turned 17 about a month before the June 12, 2018, nighttime melee on Knox Street when Giusti was apparently struck by a rock and knocked to the pavement. 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 that night around 10:30 p.m. with more than a dozen white men, including Giusti, who had congregated in Kennedy Park.

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.

Nkurunziza had been staying in a Brunswick home with church friends of his family, but the friends were no longer able to keep him due to unrelated family circumstances, according Lobozzo.

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