Animal Law, Boalt Hall, Crime, Deaths, Department of Justice, Environment / Environmental Law, Law Schools, Violence

A Closer Look at the Alleged Berkeley Bird Murderers

Eric Cuellar (left) and Justin Teixeira (right). Image via Gawker (click to enlarge).

Think of this as like the law school version of The Hangover — except that an animal apparently was harmed in the making of this movie.

Over the weekend, we covered the sad and disturbing story of two Boalt Hall law students who stand accused of killing a helmeted guinea fowl. This allegedly went down in a wildlife habitat at the (unfortunately named) Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.

As we noted in an update, the bird was exotic rather than endangered (well, at least not endangered outside the Flamingo Hotel). But killing such a bird can still be charged as a felony, thanks to a 2011 amendment to Nevada law. And the Berkeley law students in question, Eric Cuellar and Justin Teixeira, have in fact been charged with felonies — conspiracy and the willful, malicious torture or killing of wildlife.

Let’s take a closer at the two men at the center of this flap. We’ve heard from some Above the Law tipsters who know them….

In case you’re wondering, these gents are no longer in police custody. Their families flew into Las Vegas and bailed them out on either Friday night or early Saturday morning, sources tell us. Justin Teixeira headed back to Berkeley; we’re not sure of Eric Cuellar’s whereabouts right now.

As you can see from his LinkedIn profile (via Google Cache), Justin Teixeira is a 3L — i.e., a member of the class of 2013 — who came straight through to Berkeley Law from undergrad. He graduated from UCLA in 2010, with a major in political science and a minor in — wait for it — environmental studies.

Here’s more about Justin, from a Boalt Hall tipster:

Justin is your typical fratty law student. He SAed at WilmerHale last summer but that’s probably gone now. His LinkedIn profile was up long enough for people to find it and have a good laugh (about his 1L summer job with the Environment & Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice).

Justin is literally “fratty”; according to his LinkedIn page, he is a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Here’s a report from a UCLA classmate:

I knew Justin in college. We only met briefly at freshman orientation at UCLA in 2006. I am also pretty sure he was in some fraternity there at some point too. I remember being paired up with him to discuss some orientation thing like “campus diversity” and him telling me he was from Redding, California, close to the Oregon Border. We were grouped in the same group because of our shared “pre-Political Science” major. I saw him in classes here and there but we didn’t really talk again after orientation.

I don’t remember too much about him other than he acted like a typical insensitive frat d*****bag. That being said, it’s still a shock to read a story like this and it be about someone I have known, confirmed by a mugshot. Disappointing….

Disappointing indeed. As for Eric Cuellar, who is a 2L at Boalt, we heard from some sources who knew him back in college at the University of Texas:

OMG, I can’t believe I’m seeing Eric Cuellar’s face on the news. He was the president of the pre-law society at University of Texas-Austin. I paid expensive dues to this suit-wearing alleged animal murderer! Gosh I hope they caught the actual killing on camera….

Here is what a Berkeley law source tells us about Eric:

I don’t know Eric, but all of my friends say he is a really nice guy and a total follower…. [T]hey were on a school trip of sorts — there were like 40 Boalties in Vegas this weekend. This happened when they were alone, I think in the early morning hours (the stories all say the cops came at like 9:30 but this happened a couple hours before I think), but they were definitely still up from the night before and probably deep into a blackout. We are all stunned and really sad.

Stunned and sad sounds about right. Apparently this incident is ruffling major feathers in the Boalt Hall community, as reflected in comments over at Nuts & Boalts. Some readers think that the site shouldn’t even be covering the incident — which is ridiculous, considering that it’s a story about Boalt law students that has made international news. (It would be blogger malpractice for Nuts & Boalts not to give this wall-to-wall coverage; if anything, they’ve been too restrained rather than too aggressive.)

Here are some comments that jumped out at me from the Nuts & Boalts thread:

“In addition to retaining criminal defense counsel, they will probably want to retain state bar defense counsel. It’s not necessarily a disqualifying event for their professional careers, but it can certainly delay their admissions a cycle or two.”

“I mean, sometimes you get drunk and decapitate an exotic bird sitting in the middle of a casino. LET HE AMONGST US WITHOUT SIN CAST THE FIRST STONE.”

“Yikes. When (if) they come back to school, they’re gonna be ostrich-ized.”

“They are both douches. Not surprised.”

“Police say neither the victim nor the suspect is considered a flight risk.”

“I know both these guys — one of them pretty well and I can say at least the one I know well struck me as a good person and a solid friend who I’ve enjoyed having as a classmate. I simply cannot reconcile that with what they did…. I can’t imagine what they are going through right now and I am not going to abandon them no matter how shocked I am by what they did.”

C’mon, you’re a law student, you know about the presumption of innocence — what they allegedly did. As we noted in our prior post, right now we’re just dealing with allegations. Neither Cuellar nor Teixeira has commented on the case, and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

One reader of Nuts & Boalts thinks that all the squawking over this has been excessive:

“It was a bird. Have them do community service and speak at a few PETA events.”

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Whether prosecutors, a jury, Boalt Hall administrators, and character-and-fitness examiners will reach the same conclusion remains to be seen.

Bird is the word. We’ll continue to follow this story as it winds its way through the courts (of law and of public opinion). If you have information to share, just email us, text us (646-820-8477), or send us a message by carrier pigeon.

P.S. If you have a tip you’d like to share with me in person (and if you won’t be watching the Giants play the Cardinals), come to U.C. Hastings Law at 5 p.m. today and say hello.

UPDATE (10/18/2012, 6:10 PM): This is an ongoing story. For the latest coverage of Eric Cuellar and Justin Teixeira, click here and here, respectively.

FUBAR [Nuts and Boalts]
2011 Nevada Senate Bill No. 223: Revises provisions relating to cruelty to animals [Animal Legal & Historical Center]
Justin Teixeira [LinkedIn via Google Cache]

Earlier: Law Students of the Weekend: Alleged Berkeley Bird Beheaders

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