Law students charged in Vegas bird beheading case
Thursday, December 27, 2012
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Prosecutors filed charges Thursday against two University of California, Berkeley, law school students accused of decapitating an exotic bird at a Las Vegas casino earlier this year.
The charges against Justin Teixeira, 24, include felony killing and felony torturing of an animal, while Eric Cuellar, 24, faces a misdemeanor charge of instigating, engaging in or furthering an act of animal cruelty.
“This was a pretty horrendous act,” Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson told The Associated Press, adding that an investigation is ongoing and could result in criminal charges against one or two other people.
Wolfson said that in a tourist town where people can watch dolphins and tigers at play and stroll through a flamingo habitat, “I’m hoping we can send a message to people who visit that this is totally unacceptable.”
Police said the two men were seen Oct. 12 laughing and throwing around the body of a dead, 14-year-old helmeted guineafowl at the Flamingo resort-casino on the Las Vegas Strip. The large bird named Turk was part of the Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat, a garden area with ponds and streams that houses many types of birds.
Surveillance video captured the men chasing the bird into some trees, authorities said, and witnesses told police the two emerged carrying the bird’s body and severed head.
Richard Schonfeld, an attorney representing Cuellar, said he was pleased prosecutors opted for a lesser charge for his client.
“Eric has an exemplary background and I’m pleased the DA chose to proceed with a misdemeanor,” said Schonfeld, whose client faces up to six months in jail if convicted. “It’s an acknowledgement that he did not physically harm the bird.”
If convicted on all charges, Teixeira could be sentenced to prison time. His attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday afternoon.