Law student pleads not guilty in exotic bird killing

A University of California, Berkeley law student charged in the October beheading of an exotic bird on the Strip pleaded not guilty Monday.

Justin Teixeira was charged with felony killing another person’s animal and other animal cruelty charges in the Oct. 12 decapitation of Turk, a 14-year-old helmeted guinea fowl at the Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat.

Teixeira’s attorney, Michael Pariente, entered the plea on his behalf. Teixeira was out of state, he said.

Justice of the Peace Bill Kephart set an April 24 preliminary hearing.

Another student arrested in the case, Eric Cuellar, pleaded guilty this month to instigating an act of cruelty to an animal, a misdemeanor. Kephart ordered Cuellar to complete 48 hours of community service and an alcohol counseling class and pay a $200 fine and $150 in restitution to the Flamingo. He was given credit for having already served two days in jail.

Authorities have obtained video of the incident, but it has not been made public.

A witness told Las Vegas police that Teixeira and Cuellar tossed the bird around after its death.

If convicted, Teixeira, who is in his final year of law school, could face a possible prison term.

Christopher Edley Jr., dean of UC Berkeley’s law school, released a statement in October saying he was “extremely troubled” by the arrests, but it was “premature to speculate about any possible consequences. The justice system must run its course.”

The law school is required to alert the California state bar of relevant issues regarding a student’s moral character, Edley said. “A conviction or even arrest will trigger heightened scrutiny and a substantial burden of persuasion for the (bar) applicant.”

The state bar requires a background check to determine positive moral character, according to its website.

Two more students from the law school could face charges in the case. The district attorney’s office was still investigating and has not named the students.

Contact Lynnette Curtis at Lynnette.Curtis@yahoo.com.