Fletcher handed over to US Marshals Service for extradition hearing to Tonga

A US citizen, who is sought by Tongan authorities for murder, has been handed over to the US Marshals Service, while his case with the District Court of American Samoa has been dismissed.

Fifty-three year old Dean J. Fletcher, who is from Florida, is charged in the local court with one misdemeanor count of unlawfully entering and landing at the Port of Pago Pago, on Oct. 3, without clearance from port officials. He has been held without bail at the Territorial Correctional Facility.

Early this month, Fletcher’s attorney, assistant public defender Mathoni M. McCormick had moved to quash the Oct. 4 arrest warrant issued by the District Court and also to dismiss the local case. At the time, the court rejected these efforts, while two officials from Tonga police were on island at the time to take Fletcher back to Tonga to stand trial for the alleged murder of his wife.

Another hearing took place yesterday in Fletcher’s case and this time, three agents with the US Marshals Service from Honolulu were present in court where the government moved to dismiss the case, as the defendant would be taken into custody by federal agents.

District Court Judge Fiti A. Sunia granted the government’s motion to dismiss the case with prejudice, as the defendant would now be in the hands of the US Marshal Service.

McCormick told Samoa News yesterday afternoon that the US Marshals Service agents were to have taken Fletcher to Honolulu last night on the Hawaiian Airlines’ flight; and at the federal level in Honolulu, there will be an extradition hearing to return Fletcher to Tonga.

It’s unclear at this point what will happen to the vessel, ‘Sea Oak’, which Fletcher used to sail into Pago Pago after evading Tongan authorities in late September this year. (Original Samoan story published in Lali section of today’s Samoa News edition.)

BACKGROUND

As of yesterday afternoon, there was no official confirmation as to when Fletcher would appear at the federal court in Honolulu and federal electronic court records didn’t show a case against Fletcher.

Tonga-based online publication Matangi Tonga reports last month that extradition proceedings have began between the Offices of the Attorney General in American Samoa and Tonga as well as the US Justice Department to extradite Fletcher back to Tonga.

USDOJ spokesman Peter Carr had told Samoa News earlier this month that, as a matter of policy, the Justice Department generally does not comment on extradition-related matters, which would include confirming whether an extradition request has been made.

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