Suspect in '87 rape attempt arrested in Tonga
By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor
WAILUKU, Maui U.S. deputy marshals this week returned from Tonga with a man suspected in a 16-year-old sexual assault case, demonstrating that the long arm of the Hawai'i Fugitive Task Force reaches to international hiding places.
Kalisitiane Mafi was scheduled to appear in Maui Circuit Court today for arraignment on a bail jumping charge, and will get a new trial date for a 1987 case in which he is charged with breaking into a Kihei woman's home and trying to rape her.
He was 18 at the time of the crime and failed to show up for his October 1987 trial for first-degree burglary and first-degree attempted sexual assault.
Maui County Deputy Prosecutor Robert Rivera said authorities knew that Mafi, a Tongan national, had fled to that Southwest Pacific kingdom of more than 171 islands, but they weren't sure of his exact whereabouts until recently.
He was retrieved by the Hawai'i Fugitive Task Force, formed earlier this year under a federal crime-fighting initiative. The task force includes members of the county police departments, the U.S. Marshals Service, state and county prosecutors and the state Department of Public Safety.
There was a near-glitch in bringing Mafi back to Hawai'i, said Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Michael Ferstl.
After picking Mafi up in Tonga, where he was being held on a warrant, the marshals were to have made stops in American Samoa and New Zealand before connecting to a Hawai'i flight. But once they reached American Samoa, New Zealand authorities said they would not allow Mafi into their country, because he had lived there and had relatives there, and might seek asylum once he landed, Ferstl said.
The deputy marshals and their captive had to spend the night in American Samoa before other flight arrangements could be made, he said, and they arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday.