DEBRA W. YANG
United States Attorney
Central District of California
Thom Mrozek, Public Affairs Officer
January 14, 2005
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO SELLING
200-YEAR-OLD NATIVE HAWAIIAN SKULL ON eBay
A Huntington Beach man pleaded guilty this afternoon to violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act for selling on the Internet a 200-year-old skull of a Native Hawaiian that was stolen from a beach on Maui.
Jerry David Hasson, 55, pleaded guilty in federal court in Los Angeles. Hasson admitted that he offered the skull for sale on eBay.com, claiming that the skull was of a "200-year-old Warrior" who "Died On Maui in the 1790s."
In February 2004, Hasson placed the skull up for auction, with bidding starting at $1,000 and an immediate purchase price of $12,500. As part of the auction, Hasson stated that he and others took the skull as a "souvenir" from a guarded excavation site located on Kaanapali Beach on Maui in 1969. Hasson claimed that the skull and other skeletal remains on the beach were those of Hawaiian warriors who fought with or against Hawaii's legendary King Kamehameha.
Shortly after the skull was placed on eBay, a member of a Native Hawaiian organization known as Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai'i Nei (Group Caring for the Ancestors of Hawaii), warned Hasson that selling the skull was a violation of federal law. Hasson was also advised to terminate the sale of the skull and return it to the Native Hawaiian organization for ceremonial reburial.
An undercover agent with the Bureau of Indian Affairs later contacted Hasson via the Internet and negotiated the purchase of the skull. During the negotiation, Hasson told the undercover agent that there might be a problem with selling the skull because it was an "antiquity." Hasson then proposed that he would present the skull as a "gift" to the agent if he purchased another one of Hasson's auction items. On February 12, the agent sent Hasson a cashier's check in the amount of $2,500 for the purchase of a collector's edition of a comic book fanzine. On February 18, the agent received the skull from Hasson via Federal Express at his office in New Mexico.
The skull was examined by a recognized expert in the identification of Native Hawaiian remains at the University of Hawaii's Department of Anthropology. The forensic expert determined that the skull was that of an adult female, who was approximately 50 years old at the time of her death. The expert also confirmed that the skull was from a person of Polynesian ancestry who lived in prehistoric (pre-1778) Hawaii.
Hasson is scheduled to be sentenced on May 23 by United States District Judge A. Howard Matz, who could sentence the defendant to as much as five years in federal prison. Hasson has agreed to pay up $10,000 to pay for repatriation and reburial of the Native Hawaiian remains.
This case was investigated by the United States Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Release No. 05-010
Return to the 2005 Press Release Index
Return to the Home Page