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.
Criminal charges _ especially felonies _ can affect a person’s future in the legal field. The State Bar of California, for example, requires applicants to demonstrate good moral character.
A statement on the bar’s website notes that people convicted of violent felonies or felonies involving moral turpitude “are presumed not to be of good moral character in the absence of a pardon or a showing of overwhelming reform and rehabilitation.”
Gina Greisen, the president of Nevada Voters for Animals and an advocate for the state’s newly passed, tougher law against animal cruelty, said those potential consequences 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.”
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Arizona kids in crisis: How you can help
- 11 holiday classics for the ultimate movie marathon
- 2016 college football rivalry games you simply can't miss
- New treatment offers hope for migraine sufferers
- 11 stadiums to watch your favorite football team
- Shopping for a TV? Best models for 2016
- The new beer pairing guide for holiday foods
- Avoid this holiday plumbing disaster in your home
- 7 tips to avoid holiday weight gain
- New treatments mean better prostate cancer survival rates
- 5 of the scariest things found in drains
- 6 tips to create the best family movie night
- New bone marrow procedure holds promise for healing pain
- The best places to celebrate Fall in Phoenix
- Infamous athletes who did the most time for their crimes
- Diet, exercise and aspirin: 3 tools to fight colon cancer
- 2016 baseball highlights, bloopers and blunders
- See how CFOs really feel about business in the Valley
- The best television shows on the internet
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever