September 12, 2004 in Nation/World

Man faces five years in prison for selling human skull on eBay

David Haldane Los Angeles Times
 

A Huntington Beach, Calif., man is in hot water with the feds for trying to sell a skull on eBay.

Thirty-five years ago, Jerry David Hasson, 55, found a skull in the sands of Hawaii; today he faces up to five years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine for allegedly violating the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act by selling the skull on eBay.

“These are the ancestors of our native Hawaiians,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney William Carter, who is prosecuting the case. “All of these remains are part of our historical and cultural heritage, and we have to preserve them for the (native) people and for ourselves.”

According to authorities, Hasson said he found the skull while he and Charlton Heston’s son Fraser were living on Maui during the 1969 filming of “The Hawaiians,” a feature film starring the elder Heston and in which Hasson played a bit part.

One day, Hasson said, he and two friends, including Fraser Heston, decided to explore a guarded archaeological site on Kaanapali Beach.

“Being a teenager, I along with some friends … decided to sneak over late one night and see what we could find,” Hasson wrote in an eBay ad he posted.

“While digging in the sand, we began to uncover an entire skeleton and, of course, I decided to keep the skull. For the last 35 years, I’ve kept this 200-year-old Hawaiian Warrior as a souvenir of my youth but now it’s time to give him to the highest bidder.”

Hasson’s high bidder turned out to be John Fryar, a special agent with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

His job includes posing as an eBay buyer to enforce federal laws that protect archaeological artifacts and the human remains of Native Hawaiians by prohibiting their interstate sale.

Members of a Native Hawaiian organization, Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawai’i Nei (Group Caring for the Ancestors of Hawaii), alerted Fryar to the ad and told him they found it deeply offensive.

Fryar communicated with Hasson by phone and e-mail, eventually winning the auction for $2,500. But Hasson knew such a sale was illegal, Fryar said. To “cover it up,” Fryar agreed to bid the same $2,500 for another item – a 1966 Fanzine comic book worth $50 – and Hasson would “gift” him the skull, Fryar wrote in his affidavit.

After Hasson mailed the skull to a New Mexico address, it was examined by a University of Hawaii anthropologist who confirmed the remains to be those of a Polynesian woman who died at about age 50.


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