Mendocino County Leopard Hunter Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

Stock photo of a leopard skin.

Stock photo of a leopard skin. [By SagarPaudel68 via Wikimedia Commons]

Press release from the Department of Justice:

Adam Thatcher Lawrence pleaded guilty in federal court in Oakland today to mislabeling wildlife intended for importation, announced Acting United States Attorney Alex G. Tse and United States Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement Region 8 Assistant Special Agent in Charge Daniel Crum. The plea was accepted by the Honorable Haywood S. Gilliam, U.S. District Judge.

In pleading guilty, Lawrence, 38, of Willits, Calif., admitted that, in August 2011, he traveled to the Republic of South Africa and hunted, shot, and killed a leopard in that country. Lawrence did not personally possess a permit to kill a leopard in South Africa at that time, nor did he possess a permit allowing him to export the leopard from South Africa. Lawrence further admitted that in May 2012, he returned to South Africa with the primary purpose of bringing the leopard out of that country and into the United States. The leopard’s skin and skull were secretly transported into the Republic of Mozambique concealed inside a spare tire.

Leopards are a protected species under both the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq., and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international treaty to which the United States, South Africa, and Mozambique are signatories. As a result, the import and export of leopards is strictly regulated.

Lawrence admitted that he falsely claimed he had killed the leopard in Mozambique. He acquired the permits required to export the leopard parts from Mozambique, import them into South Africa, re-export them from South Africa, and import them into the United States. In each of those documents, he falsely stated that he had killed the leopard in Mozambique in 2012, rather than South Africa in 2011. Further, in April 2013, he imported the leopard skin and skull into the United States. In connection with the importation, Lawrence knowingly submitted a United States Declaration for Importation or Exportation of Fish or Wildlife in which he falsely stated he killed the leopard in Mozambique in 2012.

A federal grand jury indicted Lawrence on January 11, 2018, charging him with one count of importing wildlife contrary to law, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 545, and one count of mislabeling wildlife intended for importation, in violation of 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(d) and 3373(d)(3). Under the plea agreement, Lawrence pleaded guilty to the mislabeling count and the importing count will be dismissed. Also as part of the plea agreement, Lawrence agreed to forfeit his interest in the leopard skin and skull that he imported, as well as the hunting rifle that he used to kill the leopard. He also has agreed to forfeit other contraband seized from his home in October 2016, including a mountain lion mount and skull, a carved hippopotamus tooth, whale bones, and a harbor seal skin.

Lawrence is released on bond. Judge Gilliam scheduled Lawrence’s sentencing hearing for June 25, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. The maximum statutory penalty for a violation of 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(d) and 3373(d)(3) is five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 plus restitution, if appropriate. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Lloyd-Lovett is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Vanessa Quant. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement.

Earlier Chapter: Mendocino Man Allegedly Killed Leopard and Tried to Falsify Records in Order to Get Its Skin and Skull Home



  • 5 years in Federal Prison would be light, considering that he kills for fun and that serial killers usually start with defenseless animals…

  • But you can he illegally import yourself into the United States kill a tourist in San Francisco get off free and become a folk hero, yeah California,

  • What the statue of limitations on importing wildlife? iucn say South African leopard population are the healthiest in their entire range and that they are not listed as endangered.

  • I met this guy several times in his capacity as a real estate agent and I thought he was a real cull. Among other things while showing me property, he stated that he “hated growers”. He also regaled me with the tale of his drug cop buddies spying from their helicopter on some lady in an outdoor shower. He seemed to think this was just the greatest thing, which seems to me the lowest grade of ass hole behavior.

    I`m surprised the real estate broker had him as a salesman. The broker is known to me to be an honorable and forthright man. Anyway, I`m wishing Mr. Lawrence the very worst during his stay in the big house. [edit]

  • I can’t believe that there are so many nasty people making ugly remarks going on. The people here are so mean. We need to ask what our society did to him and rehabilitate, not condemn.

    Did I miss any other trite phrases? No? Because he obviously knew he was doing something illegal, went to ridiculous lengths to get what he wanted, to circumvent the rules. He lied to authorities. He will deserve what he gets. Hmm… sounds like every pot dealer on here.

    • There is no victim when someone decides to consume a natural plant. There is always a victim in cases of poaching.

      • I guess if you kill off with herbacides, insecticides or a bull dozer or a pirated water system in illegal grows, wild life slaughter doesn’t count.

        • Adam Lawrence is a pussy fart

          Not related, except in a fevered mind. That was an unusual accident with a crazy guy, and a stolen gun he picked up for the first time right before it went off. We still don’t know who left it there. If you want this to be a typical example of what happens with immigrants, you will wait a long time for something like that to happen again. This guy conciously went there to shoot that animal, and sneak it back. It is kind of a wierd way to be entertained. If I shoot a deer here, at least I can eat it. It’s not like I think he is tougher for the experience. He sat there with a scope after getting driven out into the bush. His porters lifted it up into the truck for him.

        • No responsible farmer would do such practices. You can find bad actors in almost industry you look.

        • How many pirated water systems are used for cattle operations?

      • There is when people are killed because someone else wants that natural plant to sell.

    • The difference between imagination, and observation

      It sounds like society has, up til now, rewarded him for his asshole behavior. You can see half of the commenters think he is ok and are trying to connect this to justifying their ethnic cleansing plans.
      Just a news flash: growing weed is pretty easy. It’s usually the inexperienced who think they need to resort to pesticides. Plus, In June of 2013 all rural water systems became “pirated” by fiat until you registered them because some dipshit in Sac thought everybody in the state lives on a municiple water system. And… How do you use herbacides in weed growing? Not very common. You know that way more Roundup is sprayed all over your suburban lawns than all the weed grows in the Tri-County area combined.

      • Very little Roundup is sprayed on lawns. Roundup kills both grasses and broadleaf plants. 2,4-D kills broadleaf plants but not grasses. It is usually 2,4-D that is sprayed on lawns.

        • My neighbors proudly saturate their acre on the Eel River with round-up every year, right before the rain. It then drains directly into the river. Old ranchers. (Indian killers?)

          • The Wildlife die either way, and yes it hurts them to be tortured horrendously, shot and killed! #TrophySportHunters are not merciful they LOVE it! #Despicable humans, they are stealing from all humanity, our precious Wildlife for FUN!! Lots of CONservation there? Yeah right! ✌🏼🤢

          • Fools! When they have finished pouring chemicals in the river, the water is poisonous after they act ridiculously, they will suffer along with everyone too, #Morons think it won’t hurt them? What a stupid thing to do! Tell them to stop being thick idiots, they need prosecuting!!!

        • Look up round up ready wheat, Monsanto made seeds that can be sprayed with round up 2 weeks before harvest so it puts out 20 percent more. Who sprays the most round up? Traditional Agriculture operations.

  • I trophy hunted in South Africa once and many years ago. I found it interesting as well as repulsive. First and last time I will ever trophy hunt or visit Africa.

  • I`ve often wondered if there has ever been such a thing as a hunter who hunted other hunters? Someone who appears to be a hunter, has the licenses, tags, camo clothes & all the gear. However, he`s actually a sniper who picks his shots and takes out other hunters. If he`s good, he`d get away and if caught, well, just an unfortunate hunting accident.

    I wonder if it`s ever happened? It would be a good novel.

  • Tourism is terrorism once again.
    Tourists of the “hunting” or the “eco” variety inevitably distract communities and institutions from serving their own resident population first, above all others. Tourists in our area are a danger on the roadways, and can be a threat to community integrity in certain ways. Bioregionalism and social permaculture offer the potential for a more intact life, and a less transient/tourist social landscape.

  • I hate the idea of trophy hunting at all. Being in a room full of mounted dead animals is creepy and sad. I wonder if there is any future in providing a paintball hunt and awarding synthetic furs to the hunters.

    But this is just a personal and emtional response based on a dislike of hunting for a trophy, not for food or safety.

  • Trophy hunting is not only outdated, but barbaric and heinous. It’s cruel and greedy. Leopards are in sharp decline, as are many of Africa’s iconic animals… trophy hunting needs to be banned outright. Killing is NOT conservation and the big hunting industry hopes to trick people into thinking it is, instead of what it really is: bloodlust and bully mentality. What a sick and twisted activity. Often trophy hunters, especially the wealthy ones who travel to Africa to kill, are ready and willing to break all the rules to get their gruesome “trophies” into the U.S. so they can sit over a cognac with their other soulless buddies and brag about what a big “man” they are. Sick and depraved. Ugly behavior. [Edit]

  • What a piece of human garbage this man is! That sentence is way too light! Disgusting slaughter just so he can brag or get some sort of prize? My God! This story sickens me. It sheds a real light on just how far evil trophy killers will go to bring home their kills and just how much the African hunting operators will go to help their clients. UGLY. UGLY. UGLY and EVIL.

  • Yesterday morning outside of Willits there was an all out “raid” on this guys property. Fish and Game, Cops, etc.
    Supposedly 20+ vehicles and a chipper. If this guy hates growers, and given that word is he is pals with everybody’s favorite wannabe cop Paul Trouette, why was there a chipper headed to his property? Just a hypocrite? Anyone know more details of yesterday’s expedition?

  • Well, what about that wacko animal rights woman who murdered those innocent workers at YouTube in San Francisco? I fear the animal rights people too…

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