A Spartanburg man will spend 90 days in jail -- to be served on weekends -- in connection with the shooting death of a hunter in the Sumter National Forest in 2008.
A jury found Michael Lee Hawkins guilty late Wednesday of negligent use of a gun while hunting resulting in death. Judge Ernest Kinard gave him the minimum sentence for the crime. The judge allowed Hawkins to serve the jail time on the weekend so the man, who had no prior record and has worked in the same textile job for 27 years while volunteering at church, would not lose his job.
Hawkins was charged in the death of Tuona Xiong. Court testimony revealed Xiong and his hunting friend were packing to leave the Sumter National Forest in October of 2008 when he was shot just before dusk by Hawkins. Hawkins has said he thought he was shooting a deer, though prosecutors repeatedly rebuked his claim that the shooting was an accident.
After the verdict, Hawkins apologized in court.
I didnt go out there that day to take a life, Hawkins said toward Xiongs family.
A hundred percent, to this day, I was shooting at a deer.
The widow of Tuona Xiong says she was satisfied with the guilty verdict. But Payne Vang said she wanted Hawkins to serve the three-year maximum allowed under the law for the hunting gun crime.
I am disappointed, Vang said after the trial at the Chester County Courthouse, because I was expecting he might serve the three years for the man that we lost.
He gets to go home to his family. My husband does not go home.
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