A judge has sentenced a Portland man to 7 ½ years in prison for shooting and killing his sister’s boyfriend last year.

Mark Cardilli Jr., 25, was initially charged with murder in the death of Isahak Muse, 22. Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills presided over a bench trial in December and ultimately found Cardilli guilty of the lesser offense of manslaughter. She also decided his sentence during an emotional hearing at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland on Monday. The total sentence is 11 years, but the judge suspended 3 ½ years.

“I expect no one will agree with this sentence or like this sentence who is in the courtroom today,” Mills said.

Isahak Muse Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Cardilli has admitted to killing Muse during a fight at the Cardilli home in Portland’s Riverton neighborhood, but he said he was defending himself and his family. The prosecutors from the Maine Attorney General’s Office argued the law did not allow Cardilli to use deadly force during that confrontation in the early morning hours of March 16, 2019.

Muse came to the house that night to spend time with his girlfriend, Chelsey Cardilli. Her older brother had recently moved home after serving five years in the U.S. Army. The fight started as a dispute over whether Muse could spend the night at the Cardilli home, and the entire family was involved in a verbal and physical altercation before the shooting.

The Cardillis are white, and Muse was Black. Since the first days after the fatal shooting, the role of racism has been a constant question. While police investigated the incident, local Muslim leaders voiced their concern that it was a hate crime. When Mills set bail at $50,000 and allowed Cardilli to wait for his trial at home, protesters questioned whether a Black defendant would have had the same opportunity. And when Chelsey Cardilli took the stand at the trial, she said her brother made racist statements about Muslims, Somali people and Black people.

But Mills did not find that testimony to be credible, and she rejected that argument again Monday when she said she did not find that Cardilli acted “out of improper motive.”

Awo Muse, sister of Isahak Muse, wipes back tears as she gives her victim’s impact statement during Mark Cardilli Jr.’s sentencing at the Cumberland County Courthouse on Monday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said the Muse family disagreed with that conclusion.

“The court did not believe that we produced evidence that there was a racial motivation beyond a reasonable doubt,” Robbin said. “My question has always been: If the boyfriend who wouldn’t leave was white, would the gun ever have been introduced? That’s always been my question.”

Defense attorney Matt Nichols said he did not believe race was a factor in the altercation between the two men. He also reiterated that the judge did not give those allegations any weight in her findings.

“I would say definitively that it played zero role,” he said.

Neither family spoke to the media after the hearing.

Cardilli faced a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison because he used a firearm to cause the death of another person. The maximum penalty for manslaughter is 30 years.

Mark Cardilli speaks to the judge as his wife, Suzanne, stands by his side during the sentencing of their son at the Cumberland County Courthouse on Monday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The state asked for a sentence of 18 years, including 12 years in prison. The defense asked for a sentence of eight years, with four years in prison.

The judge heard those arguments Monday, as well as statements from family members of both Muse and Cardilli. The defendant addressed the court last. Cardilli said he wishes Muse was still alive and his family was not suffering, but Cardilli did not directly apologize for his actions.

Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills presides over the sentencing of Mark Cardilli Jr. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“I wish the events of that night never happened,” Cardilli said. “It was a tragedy for both of our families.”

The Muse siblings asked the court to impose the strictest possible sentence on Cardilli. They described their brother as a joy to their family and a friend to all. One sister talked about the pain she felt knowing her newborn baby would never meet her brother, who loved children. Another remembered the way Muse would kiss her forehead as a gesture of love.

Asli Muse talked about the decision Mark Cardilli made when he ran to his bedroom on the night of the shooting. He could have picked up his phone to call the police, she said, but he chose to get his gun instead.

“That one small decision took everything away from us,” she said. “We’re never going to be happy ever again because of one single decision that he made.”

Mark Cardilli Jr. enters the Cumberland County Courthouse for his sentencing Monday. Cardilli admitted to shooting 22-year-old Isahak Muse during a family fight but said he was defending himself and his family. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Multiple speakers talked about the allegations of racial bias. Muse’s siblings repeatedly said he was not a threat to the Cardilli family.

“Why did he make the deliberate decision to aim and fire at a defenseless skinny Isahak?” Asha Muse said. “Murdering an unarmed Black kid and still pleading self-defense is a basic move. We have all seen that.”

Between sobs, Chelsey Cardilli told her brother that she would never forgive him.

“To you, Black lives don’t matter, and to be able to say that it had nothing to do with race is the privilege that you have,” she said.

Chelsey Cardilli looks at her brother Mark Cardilli Jr. as she speaks during Cardilli’s sentencing Monday. Isahak Muse, 22, was Chelsey’s boyfriend. Mark Cardilli Jr. admitted shooting Muse during a family fight. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The defendant’s parents, Mark Cardilli Sr. and Suzanne Cardilli, described their son as a dedicated student who built his own computer in high school. They said he decided on his own to join the military and talked about how much they missed him while he was stationed in Alaska. Suzanne Cardilli described him as “a perfect son” and said she would always be proud of him. Mark Cardilli Sr., who has been diagnosed with ALS, asked the judge to consider his health in her sentence.

“With the time left in my life, all I want is to be able to spend the rest of it with my son,” the senior Cardilli said. “Nothing else in life matters to me now.”

Suzanne Cardilli also said her own parents raised her to treat all people the same, and she raised her children like that, too.

“We like everybody,” she said. “Everybody is welcome in our home.”

The bench trial lasted a week in December. Mills decided that the state failed to prove Cardilli was not acting in self-defense, but she also found that his belief that he needed to shoot Muse was unreasonable. Her conclusions supported neither a guilty verdict nor a full acquittal. The result was a conviction on the lesser offense of manslaughter. Cardilli plans to appeal.

The sentencing had been delayed because of the pandemic, and on Monday, the court opened two overflow rooms for people to watch a live stream and observe social distancing.

At the hearing, Mills described in detail the steps she took to impose the sentence. She listed the details and sentences in other manslaughter cases that helped her. In particular, she cited the sentence for Tyrese Collins, who is serving 6 ½ years for a fatal Portland shooting, and that for Derrick Dupont, who got 10 years in prison for killing a man outside his family’s West Gardiner home. Both cases involved a possible self-defense argument.

She said she considered the loss for the Muse family as the most aggravating factor for the sentence and Cardilli’s military service as the most mitigating. While the prosecutor and multiple speakers said Cardilli has not expressed remorse for his actions, the judge disagreed.

“Mr. Cardilli may not have used the magic words that the state would have wanted to hear,” Mills said. “I think that he is remorseful for what happened. He said he thinks every day of Mr. Muse and wishes it had not happened. I don’t think he wishes it had not happened simply because he is in trouble.”

Staff Writer Matt Byrne contributed to this story.

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