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Extradition hearing for U.S. citizen wanted in Tonga set for January

The federal court in Honolulu has scheduled an extradition hearing in January for an American citizen, wanted in Tonga for the murder of his wife, and the fugitive remains jailed in Honolulu following a detention hearing yesterday after it was postponed from Monday.

Fifty-four year old Dean Jay Fletcher, while in custody of Tonga police after being arrested for the July murder of his wife, escaped the island kingdom on Sept. 29 and headed to American Samoa on his sailboat.

After arriving in the territory he was charged with a misdemeanor — entering the territory without authorization.  This charge was later dismissed and Fletcher was turned over early last week to US Marshals Service agents, who took him to Honolulu to face an extradition process that would return him to Tonga.

According to the federal court record, Fletcher’s extradition hearing is set for Jan. 10, 2017 before US Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield, who will also preside over a status hearing set for Dec. 19.

At the extradition hearing, the “court will determine if Tonga has complied” with the Treaty requirements for Fletcher’s extradition, Assistant US Attorney Larry Butrick told Samoa News yesterday afternoon from Honolulu.

US and Tonga have had in place an extradition treaty since 1931 that was amended in 1977, according federal court documents.

As for the detention hearing yesterday afternoon before Mansfield, Butrick said Fletcher “was detained on the basis of being a flight risk and danger to the community.”

Since arrival in Honolulu last week, Fletcher has been in federal custody, with US prosecutors seeking to detain him without bail.

In the US government’s motion filed Monday, Butrick argued to detain “the fugitive” pending resolution of the extradition proceedings to return him to Tonga. Butrick further argued that a “strong presumption against bail is supported by a host of factors.”

Among them, Fletcher is accused of the brutal murder of his wife, which he is alleged to have committed by bludgeoning her to death in his boat in view of multiple witnesses. Butrick says this fact alone makes Fletcher a danger to the community, and dooms any request for bail he may make.

Fletcher has already been shown to be a flight risk, he further argued and noted that according to Tongan authorities, Fletcher twice escaped from custody. Fletcher was re-apprehended on the first occasion, but was successful in fleeing Tonga by boat the second time and ended up in American Samoa.