Chelsey Cardilli looks at her brother Mark Cardilli Jr. as she speaks during his sentencing at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland on Aug. 31, 2020. She contacted the Portland Press Herald late last week to request that a line in a recent story about the case be removed. The line in question was a summary of her testimony, during which she accused her brother of making racist statements about Somali people and Muslims in the past – accusations she now says are not true. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald, file

The sister of a Portland man who was convicted of manslaughter in the 2019 death of her boyfriend now says she gave false testimony against her brother at his trial.

Chelsey Cardilli contacted the Portland Press Herald late last week to request that a line in a recent story about the case be removed. The line in question was a summary of her testimony, during which she accused her brother of making racist statements about Somali people and Muslims in the past – accusations she now says are not true.

Isahak Muse Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Mark Cardilli Jr. shot and killed Isahak Muse, who was both Somali and Muslim, during a fight at the Cardilli home in the early morning hours of March 16, 2019. Muse was 22 and dating Chelsey Cardilli at the time.

“I take full responsibility for the inaccuracies presented in the article. Due to my anger and resentment toward my brother, the information I provided was not accurate,” she wrote. “After five years, I understand how hurtful it is to make false claims and damage someone’s character.”

She did not elaborate about what specific claims were false.

Mark Cardilli, who claimed self-defense, initially was charged with murder but was found guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter by Justice Nancy Mills, who sentenced him to 7.5 years in prison.


He appealed that decision unsuccessfully to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, but a post-conviction review by a Superior Court justice concluded that Cardilli should be retried on the grounds that he was not provided effective counsel. That decision was then appealed by the state and the high court overruled the decision that the verdict should be vacated.

The Press Herald contacted Chelsey Cardilli to verify that she did, in fact, send the email. During a video interview, she would not answer follow-up questions about the night of Muse’s killing, about the trial or her testimony but said it was important for her to set the record straight.

Mark Cardilli Jr. listens to his attorney, Tom Hallett, during a bail hearing on Aug. 25, 2023. Cardilli’s conviction was overturned last year but the Maine Supreme Judicial Court reversed that decision. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“No matter how much he hurt me and how I still don’t care to associate with him,” she wrote about her brother, “I don’t want false information to continue going around. I deeply regret any confusion or harm that may have resulted from the dissemination of this misinformation.”

Mills was dismissive of Chelsey Cardilli’s testimony at the time of the trial and wrote in court documents that she didn’t view her statements as credible. Since the trial was a bench trial, not a jury trial, Mills was the only person to whom Chelsey Cardilli’s statements would have mattered.


The Office of the Maine Attorney General, which prosecuted the case, declined through a spokesperson to discuss Chelsey Cardilli’s admission about her false testimony.


Thomas Hallett, Mark Cardilli’s attorney, said he is still considering whether to explore any federal court appeals and didn’t know if Chelsey Cardilli’s recent statement changes anything. Still, he was glad to see her come forward.

“She’s doing the right thing,” he said. “Although, quite belatedly.”

Mark Cardilli recently turned himself in to Cumberland County Jail after his most recent court appearance and, as of Tuesday, had not yet been transferred back to state prison to finish his sentence.

The Press Herald requested an interview with him, first through county jail officials then through state officials. Both said they could not authorize it. Cumberland County Jail said they could not approve an interview because Cardilli was only a temporary inmate there. A Maine Department of Corrections spokesman, meanwhile, said they could not “approve or disapprove an interview for a resident not currently in our custody.”

Even if Chelsey Cardilli’s comments didn’t affect the trial’s outcome, they did help fuel racial tensions that already had dominated the case in the days and weeks after Muse’s death. Muse was Black and Cardilli is white, and some argued race was a factor in the shooting, as well as in the investigation and prosecution.

The Muse family did not respond to an inquiry Monday through the state’s victim/witness advocate.


Chelsey Cardilli acknowledged the impact of her testimony in the community but declined to talk about it further, other than to say she was only 17 at the time and had just watched her boyfriend get killed by her brother.

Muse was a regular guest at the Cardilli home, but on the night before his death, there was an argument over whether he should be allowed to stay. The argument escalated into fighting, at which point Mark Cardilli – a former Army sergeant – went to his bedroom to retrieve a semi-automatic pistol. Cardilli told police he fired the gun at Muse’s chest in self-defense, but a medical examiner concluded that the fatal bullets hit the victim in the back.


Asked why she decided to correct the record now, Cardilli said she had written a lengthy social media post a while back explaining that what she said in court was not true. However, that post wasn’t shared widely or covered in the media, and as the case went through various appeals, recent coverage has continued to include descriptions of her testimony.

“I don’t want to be seen as a liar or someone who is dishonest,” she said. “I am becoming my most authentic self and I was young, coming from a place of betrayal, hurt and distress.”

Cardilli said she still grieves Muse’s death.

“I will miss him forever no matter the circumstances,” she said.

Asked whether she was concerned about the possible legal implications of admitting that she gave false testimony on the witness stand, Cardilli said she hadn’t given it much thought.

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