PORTLAND, Maine — The white man who shot and killed his sister’s Black boyfriend during a 2019 fight was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison on Monday after emotional testimony from family members of both men.
Isahak Muse was “still making his way in the world” when he was killed at age 22, state prosecutor Leanne Robbin said. He had been a frequent guest at the home of his girlfriend in Portland in the months prior to his death at the hands of Mark Cardilli Jr. after an early-morning fight on March 16, 2019.
Cardilli had been staying at the home for a few days after coming home from the U.S. Army. Before the fight broke out between them, Cardilli and his father had asked Muse to leave the house. He refused. Cardilli retrieved a pistol from his room, hoping it would scare Muse into leaving the home. Muse and Cardilli exchanged punches. Cardilli fired three shots at Muse, who died at the scene.
Cardilli was found guilty on one count of manslaughter in December. Under state law, he faced a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison because the killing involved a firearm. He faced a maximum of 30 years plus probation. Judge Nancy Mills imposed an 11-year sentence on Monday with all but 7.5 years suspended and four years of probation. The state argued for at least 12 years in prison. Cardilli argued for the minimum.
Several members of Muse’s family spoke at the hearing, some directly to Cardilli, including the victim’s brother, Liban Muse, who is less than one year older than Isahak.
“Each day you have to think about what happened, that’s another day my brother doesn’t have anymore,” he said.
Cardilli expressed remorse but did not apologize at Monday’s hearing.
“All I wanted was for my family to be happy, but because of decisions I made, the opposite is happening,” he said.
Mills said Cardilli’s military service was an “overwhelming mitigating factor” toward her determination, adding that she found Cardilli to be sufficiently remorseful while noting he had no prior criminal record.
“Mr. Cardilli may not have used the magic words that the state wanted to hear, but I don’t think he wishes it had not happened simply because he’s in trouble. I think he wishes it had not happened because he took the life of Mr. Muse.”
The weeklong trial in December included testimony from Cardilli’s mother and sister. At that time, Chelsey Cardilli described her brother’s racist past statements, including his belief that Muslims are terrorists, but Mills rejected Chelsey Cardilli’s testimony on that as “not credible” in a December ruling.
On Monday, Chelsey Cardilli said that she will “forever be traumatized” by witnessing Isahak Muse’s death, and that she was ashamed to be her brother’s sister. She recalled Isahak telling her in the hour before the attack that he wanted Cardilli to like him.
“I know you wanted to get rid of him. I know you didn’t want me to be with him,” she said. “No person in this room knows you like I do.”
The defendant’s mother, Suzanne Cardilli, defended her son by saying he was “protecting his family” and calling him “the most loving, caring, non-judgmental, loyal, generous, giving, amazing person I know.”
Clockwise from left: Mark Cardilli Jr. puts his head down and wipes his eyes after his sister Chelsey Cardilli spoke during his sentencing at the Cumberland County Courthouse on Aug. 31 in Portland; Asha Muse, sister of Isahak Muse, speaks to the judge while giving her victims impact statement during Cardilli Jr.’s sentencing; Chelsey Cardilli looks at her brother as she speaks during his sentencing; Awo Muse, sister of Isahak Muse wipes back tears as she gives her victims impact statement during Cardilli Jr.’s sentencing. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via AP)
Mark Cardilli, the defendant’s father, told the court that his son “already served a five-year sentence being in the military.” The father said he was diagnosed with a terminal illness last year that could leave him with between two and five years to live.
“All I want is to be able to spend the rest of it with my son,” the senior Cardilli said.
The youngest of seven children of parents who came to the U.S. from Somalia, Muse was born in Portland and attended Deering High School. His sister, Asha Muse, said that she was still combating stereotypes about her brother that came up before and after the trial.
Monday’s sentencing hearing might not be the end of the case. There is an open investigation into possible witness tampering involving Chelsey Cardilli during the December trial, according to a sentencing memo filed by Mark Cardilli Jr.’s defense attorney.