The Land Report prides itself on singling out landowners who make a difference, inspire others, and establish a legacy. This will not be one of those instances. The name Jeff Hawn will never be included under the category Good Neighbor. Instead, it has already been listed in Colorado under a much different heading: felon.
Hawn is the chairman, president, and CEO of Attachmate, a Seattle-based company that specializes in IT. His impressive resume includes stints at McKinsey & Company and BMC, among others, and given his career one would think he would be a lucid decision maker.
His neighbors in Park County, Colorado, the Downares, know better. On March 19, he committed a crime that Judge Stephen Groome labeled “one of the most controversial cases this county has seen in a long time.” Hawn invited hunters to join him in a killing spree that left 32 stray bison that belonged to a longtime local ranching family dead and dying. Is it any wonder prosecutor Katherine O’Brien described the response as a “great community outcry.” Here’s the description from the Rocky Mountain News:
Hard, high snowdrifts and a broken fence allowed bison owned by the Downares to stray onto Hawn’s property during a three-month period. He had bought the property in the fall of 2007 to build his dream vacation home, O’Brien said.
When he was unable to keep the animals off his land, the frustrated Texan arranged to have some local men “take care” of the bison. When corralling them didn’t work, Hawn ordered the men to get rid of them any way they could. The men, who were not charged, let it be known in the area that they might soon have fresh bison meat to give to a church run by a local Indian tribe.
On the day of the killings, March 19, members of the Downare family actually ran into the group of “gleeful hunters,” who asked them if they were part of the bison-hunting party, O’Brien said. Hawn was among the men who shot the bison, O’Brien said.
In a plea agreement, the high-tech CEO pleaded guilty to one felony count of criminal mischief and guilty to one count of cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor. Upon sentencing in January, he faces a two-year deferred judgment on the felony count and up to 10 days in the Park County jail on the misdemeanor charge. The plea agreement also calls for 96 hours of public service.
Hawn also agreed to pay the Downare family nearly $84,000 for the loss of their bison, $4,000 to Park County in investigatory costs, and a total of $70,000 to seven Colorado animal protection organizations.
Be sure to scan the readers’ comments at the end of the article in the News.