KAILUA-KONA — Prosecutors say three accomplices accused of rendering aid to Justin Waiki were among a network of loyal friends who intentionally helped the man on the lam after he fatally shot a Hawaii Police Department officer on July 17, 2018.
Attorneys for the two women and man on trial for their alleged roles assisting the 33-year-old fugitive say otherwise.
Counsel for Krystle Ferreira and Jorge Pagan-Torres argue their clients were not previously connected to Waiki and were scared for their lives. They unknowingly got caught up in the whirlwind on July 20, 2018, when they went with the third defendant, Malia Lajala, to pickup what they were told was Lajala’s female friend at a Hilo Taco Bell.
Lajala’s attorney, meanwhile, says his client wasn’t trying to aid Waiki. Rather, she was working to get the man to turn himself in to police when she asked Ferreira and Pagan-Torres to take her to pick-up Jamie Jason, all the while hoping that Waiki would be with her though she hadn’t been able to make contact with him.
Jury trial opened Thursday morning for Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres, who along with Jason, were in a vehicle with Waiki when police tracked the man down three days after he shot and killed Officer Bronson Kaliloa on the side of Highway 11 in Puna. Waiki was killed in an exchange of bullets on South Point Road during which another officer suffered nonfatal gunshot wounds.
The jury hearing the case in Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim’s courtroom includes 12 members plus four alternates and is split evenly among the sexes. Trial is anticipated to last five weeks following two weeks of jury selection.
Ferreira, Lajala and Pagan-Torres are each charged with two counts of first-degree hindering prosecution, first-degree attempted murder and place to keep pistol or revolver. Lajala faces an additional charge of third-degree promoting a dangerous drug.
“Each of these defendants — Malia Kaalaneo Lajala, Krystle Lynn Ferreira and Jorge Pagan-Torres — that sit here today are charged with hindering the apprehension, the prosecution, the conviction, the punishment of Justin Waiki for murdering Officer Kaliloa on July 17, 2018, because they intentionally rendered aid to him, by hiding him, by transporting him, by warning him,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kauanoe Jackson told the jury in opening.
From picking up Jason and Waiki in Hilo to going to a store in Pahala for candy, beer and other necessities to visiting and leaving South Point headed toward a police roadblock with an armed Waiki in the rear of Ferreira’s newer model Toyota 4-Runner, the prosecutor outlined a string of actions taken by the defendants that the state says is evidence of their guilt.
“Step-by-step you will see how Waiki got from one place in Puna on the 17th to shooting a second officer on South Point Road in three days,” said Jackson. “And, you will see how these defendants made that second shooting happen.”
Each is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
James Biven, attorney for Lajala, told jurors that all the defendants were scared for their lives, noting that while on South Point Road Waiki held the gun, and had previously fired it from the vehicle. He said the lack of evidence will show his client did not have anything to do with Waiki possessing a .38 Special Revolver and she did not plan or aid him, but rather tried to get him to turn himself in and even signaled to police the danger in the rear of the 4-Runner.
“Malia is charged with attempted murder in the first degree because she is in the backseat of the 4-Runner when Mr. Waiki is shot and killed,” he said. “That’s why Malia Lajala is here today to show you that prosecution wrongfully charged her with offenses that she did not do.”
Brian De Lima, representing Ferreira, argued that the state’s evidence will show Waiki shot Kaliloa and Tina, not the defendants, who did not know what Waiki would do and were scared of the wanted man who’d also rendered their cellphones useless.
Further, there was no relationship between her and Waiki, and she barely knew Jason. Like Lajala, he said, his client tried to signal to police that Waiki was in the back before the shootout on South Point Road.
“A review of all of the evidence will demonstrate absolutely, absolutely no intention to commit any of the offenses for which she is charged,” De Lima said, after noting earlier that his client was “essentially kidnapped.”
Pagan-Torres’ attorney, Keith Shigetomi, presented his opening statement last, repeating that his client was scared, like the rest of the island, amid the manhunt. Pagan-Torres was not part of Waiki’s circle of friends, and had no choice after he decided to go with Ferreira and Lajala to pick up a woman at a Hilo Taco Bell, he said.
“After all the smoke is cleared. After the dust has settled. One thing will be crystal clear, Jorge Pagan-Torres is not guilty. He is not guilty of helping or trying to help Justin Waiki shoot anyone. Jorge never told Waiki what to do; Waiki never told Jorge what he was going to do. Jorge had no idea what Waiki was going to do,” Shigetomi said.
The fourth woman in the 4-Runner, Jason, is being tried separately as her case is tied-up in appeal over statements made while she was hospitalized. She faces two counts of first-degree hindering prosecution, first-degree attempted murder and place to keep pistol or revolver, and two firearms offenses, ownership or possession prohibited fugitive.
Three others were also charged in connection with the case; Kiel Brende and Mokihana Veincent have since pleaded out and been sentenced while the third, Taumi Carr, awaits trial.
Jury trial continues today in Kim’s courtroom with more evidence being entered and the officer who interviewed the defendants at the Kona Police Station taking the stand.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald