KAILUA-KONA — Guilty verdicts were handed down Thursday for three defendants accused of aiding cop killer Justin Waiki following a six-week trial.
Malia Lajala, Krystle Ferreira and Jorge Pagan-Torres were each charged with two counts of first-degree hindering prosecution and first-degree attempted murder.
The jury, composed of seven men and five women, deliberated for a day and a half. Around 2:30 p.m., the jury notified the court it had reached a verdict.
Lajala was found guilty of first-degree hindering prosecution and the lesser offense of second-degree attempted assault of a law enforcement officer. She is slated to be sentenced Jan. 13, 2020, by Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim who oversaw the lengthy trial during which more than 45 witnesses took the stand.
Because of a 2015 conviction of second-degree robbery and first-degree burglary, Lajala is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 months.
Ferreira was found not guilty of hindering prosecution and guilty of the lesser offense of second-degree reckless endangering, a misdemeanor. Her sentencing is set for Nov. 13 before Kim.
Pagan-Torres was also found not guilty of hindering prosecution and guilty of the lesser offense of second-degree reckless endangering. He was sentenced to one year incarceration with credit for time served and discharged from the case as he’s been incarcerated since being indicted last August.
However, because Pagan-Torres was on probation for a 2017 drug charge at the time of the 2018 incident, he will have a probation revocation hearing on Nov. 18 in Hilo Circuit Court.
The three, along with a fourth person, Jamie 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 an officer suffered nonfatal gunshot wounds.
Prosecutors argued the defendants were among a network of loyal friends of Waiki who intentionally helped the man on the lam. Attorneys for the two women and man on trial for their alleged roles assisting the 33-year-old fugitive said otherwise.
After the verdict was rendered, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sheri Lawson thanked the jury members for their service.
“We are disappointed in the verdict but this was a difficult case,” said Lawson.
“There is a lot of relief and gratitude to the jury,” commented court-appointed defense attorney Keith Shigetomi, who represented Pagan-Torres.
The sentiment was dittoed by defense attorney James Biven, who represented Lajala.
Ferreira’s court-appointed attorney, Brian De Lima, also expressed gratitude to the jury.
“We appreciate the hard work of the jury and respect the verdict,” he said. “It’s been difficult for Krystle. The jury listened to evidence for a long time and made the determination. It was a just verdict.”
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. She remains in custody in lieu of $100,000 bail at HCCC.
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. Carr is free on $25,000 bail.
“I’m very thankful this is all over,” said Ferreira as she walked out of the courthouse free on $100,000 bail pending sentencing. “I’m very blessed.”
Lajala and Pagan-Torres remain in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $1 million bail each.