Two students from the University of California, Berkeley, law school have been charged with felony killing and felony torturing of an animal for allegedly decapitating an exotic bird and other charges. The incident took place at a casino in Las Vegas earlier in 2012, according to The Washington Post.
The students charged with the crimes include 24-year-old Justin Teixeira and 24-year-old Eric Cuellar. Teixeira was charged with felony killing and felony torturing of an animal and Cuellar was charged with a misdemeanor charge of instigating, engaging in or furthering an act of animal cruelty.
“This was a cruel and malicious act,” Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said in a statement. Wolfson also noted that the investigation is continuing and could lead to criminal charges against others in the case. “It is important to hold people accountable for their actions.”
On October 12, witnesses told police that the two men were seen throwing the body of a dead, 14-year-old helmeted guineafowl while also laughing during the incident. The crime occurred at the Flamingo resort-casino in Las Vegas. The bird was named Turk and was in the Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat.
Authorities said that security cameras caught the men chasing the bird into trees. Then, witnesses told officers that they saw the men exit from the trees holding the body and severed head of the bird. Cuellar’s attorney, Richard Schonfeld, was happy that lesser charges were filed against his client.
“Eric has an exemplary background and I’m pleased the DA chose to proceed with a misdemeanor,” said Schonfeld. Cuellar, if convicted, could face no more than six months in jail. “It’s an acknowledgement that he did not physically harm the bird.”
Teixeira could be sentenced to time in prison if he is convicted on all of the charges filed against him. The attorney for Teixeira did not comment on the issue. The State Bar of California requires its applicants to demonstrate good moral character, which means this crime could prevent both men from becoming lawyers.
People convicted of felonies involving moral turpitude or violence felonies “are presumed not to be of good moral character in the absence of a pardon or a showing of overwhelming reform and rehabilitation,” according to a statement on the website for the state bar.
The president of Nevada Voters for Animals, Gina Greisen, said that the potential consequences for the men are appropriate.
“I don’t think you should get to be a lawyer if you do something like that,” Greisen said. “If you are lucky enough to be a Berkeley law student, you know you have to be above reproach in a lot of ways.”