Animal Law

Prosecutors Charge 2 Berkeley Law Students in Bird Beheading; One Faces a Felony Case

Prosecutors have filed new criminal charges against two law students at the University of California-Berkeley who are accused of a role in the decapitation of an exotic bird at a Las Vegas casino last year.

Late last month, prosecutors there charged Justin Teixeira, 24, with felony killing and felony torturing of an animal. His classmate Eric Cuellar, also 24, is charged with engaging in or furthering an act of animal cruelty, a misdemeanor, the Associated Press reports.

Noting that animals such as the slain 14-year-old guineafowl, who was known as Turk, are common tourist attractions on the Las Vegas strip, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told the AP “I’m hoping we can send a message to people who visit that this is totally unacceptable.”

A lawyer representing Teixeira didn’t respond to the news agency’s request for comment. However, attorney Richard Schonfeld, who represents Cuellar, called the lesser case against his client “an acknowledgement that he did not physically harm the bird” and said he is pleased that Cuellar, who he said “has an exemplary background” faces only a misdemeanor case.

A Las Vegas Sun article provides additional details. It notes that surveillance video captured a third man apparently involved in chasing the before its death and says Wolfson’s investigation is still ongoing and could result in additional charges.

The law school’s dean, Christopher Edley Jr., provided a written statement soon after the Oct. 12 incident, the Sun reports. It stated: “I’m extremely troubled by news accounts of the students’ actions off campus, but it’s up to the Nevada legal system to examine the facts and rule in this case. It’s premature to speculate about any possible consequences; the justice system must run its course.”

The Daily Mail also has a story.

Earlier coverage: “Two Men Who Identified Themselves as Law Students Are Accused of Decapitating Exotic Bird”

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