Berkeley Law Students Charged in Exotic Bird's Beheading in Vegas

By Andrew Lu on December 28, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The two UC Berkeley law students accused of beheading an exotic bird at a Las Vegas casino have been formally charged, prosecutors said Thursday.

Justin Teixeira, 24, faces felony charges of killing and torturing an animal. His alleged cohort Eric Cuellar, 24, faces a misdemeanor charge of instigating, engaging in, or furthering an act of animal cruelty, reports the Associated Press.

In October, the two were allegedly caught on surveillance camera chasing a rare helmeted guinea fowl at the Flamingo casino. The large, 14-year-old bird was part of the Flamingo's Wildlife Habitat. Witnesses later saw the two emerge laughing as they carried the dead bird's body and severed head.

When students go to Vegas, the motto "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" generally applies. However, even in Vegas, there are limits to what one can do with impunity. This is especially true if one commits a felony.

Given the charges, it appears that prosecutors believe that Teixeira killed the bird alone while Cuellar just egged him on, reports the AP. While both men could be locked up if convicted, a conviction for Teixeira is even more serious as it could impact his ability to practice law in the future.

In many states, like California, applicants have to demonstrate good moral character in order to practice law. And people who have been convicted of violent felonies or felonies involving moral turpitude are presumed not to be of good moral character.

UC Berkeley officials have indicated that they will take no further disciplinary action against the two students, given that the alleged bird beheading happened off campus.

But even if Teixeira and Cuellar return to school, their legal futures appear doubtful. While Teixeira may potentially be barred from obtaining a legal license, any prospective employer with access to the Internet will be able to find some pretty damaging information about Cuellar's alleged bird-brained antics.

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