Man charged with wife's death in Tonga wants his cash back

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HONOLULU (AP) — A U.S. citizen detained in Honolulu and facing extradition to Tonga where he's accused of beating his wife to death has asked the U.S. government to return cash he had amassed from other countries including Canada and New Zealand.

A public defender for Dean Jay Fletcher filed a motion Thursday saying the government is illegally keeping the currency.

The various denominations of currency from Tonga, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States are the "only means that Mr. Fletcher has to hire an attorney and mount any meaningful defense to the charges in Tonga," Assistant Federal Defender Melinda Yamaga said in the motion.

U.S. marshals brought Fletcher to Honolulu last month. Court documents say he escaped twice from a Tonga jail and sailed to American Samoa.

Fletcher was indicted in the Kingdom of Tonga on murder and other charges in the July death of his wife, Patricia Linne Kearney, according to court records filed in Honolulu.

While in police custody on July 11, Fletcher asked a detective for permission to use the toilet then ran out of the police station and was caught after a brief foot chase, authorities said. The records say officers couldn't catch him when he fled again in September and was last seen sailing away in a boat.

He traveled some 300 miles north to American Samoa, where he was arrested and later taken to Honolulu because there's no federal court in the U.S. territory.

"The murder charge has nothing to do with money," Yamaga's motion on the currency said, noting that U.S. authorities returned items of no worth such as paperwork and a journal but kept the cash, credit cards and Fletcher's boat license.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick said Friday the government seized the money in accordance with a treaty with Tonga. He says the cash is worth about $10,000.

The items returned were copies, Butrick said.

"We kept the originals and we will submit those to Tonga upon his extradition," he said.

Yamaga didn't return messages Friday seeking comment.

A Jan. 10 hearing is scheduled on her motion.

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