Animal Law, Boalt Hall, Crime, Deaths, Law Schools, Violence

In Defense of the Alleged Berkeley Bird Murderers

Left to right: Eric Cuellar, a mysterious third man, and Justin Teixeira.

It seems that our coverage of Eric Cuellar and Justin Teixeira, two law students at Boalt Hall who have been charged with killing an exotic bird at a Las Vegas casino, has ruffled some feathers. Some readers believe that Cuellar and Teixeira been unfairly maligned in these pages.

In our coverage, we have repeatedly stressed that these two law students remain innocent until proven guilty. We have also cited positive comments about them that we’ve received from sources. For example, correspondents have praised Cuellar to us as “an upstanding guy and an excellent leader” and “a really nice guy.” They described the alleged conduct as out of character for Cuellar.

To some readers, however, these comments have not been enough. They’ve written to us with further testimonials in favor of the defendants, to which we now turn….

Here is one message we received:

I went to high school and college with Eric Cuellar. He is a great guy and such a caring friend. I am shocked by the events that have unfolded for him. He is not the ‘douchebag’ stated in the article.

For the record, we didn’t call Cuellar a d-bag; that was the opinion of a source. We’ve never met him and can’t offer such an opinion as to his personality.

From a second source:

I’m a 2L at Boalt and I know Eric well — I had all of my classes with him last year. I have never known him to be anything but kind and gentle. There’s no doubt Eric is fun-loving — but whoever characterized him as a “frat-type douchebag” clearly doesn’t know him at all. I seriously doubt that Eric is capable of the awful actions he is accused of. In any case, as a legal blog I’m sure you are familiar with the premise ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ Eric has not confessed to anything, and the police report confirms that no one saw him touch the bird. You should be ashamed of yourselves for printing these prejudicial comments when as far as anyone knows, Eric Cuellar is innocent.

That’s definitely a strong message of support. #FreeEricCuellar?

A third tipster tells us:

I was at UT with Eric, and was part of Phi Alpha Delta (which, by the way, is a pre-law club and is only called a fraternity due to the Greek name — I think anyone who thinks Eric is a frat boy would be in for a rude awakening if they went inside any real fraternity house at UT).

I’ve been holding back from sending this because I didn’t want to add to all of the drama around the situation, but after seeing a response calling Eric a “fratboy douche” that “never came to anything that didn’t involve sports,” I felt like I needed to defend his character from people like this that obviously didn’t know him.

First, Eric was the social director of Phi Alpha Delta that year, which meant he was primarily responsible for organizing intramural sports. Apart from that, he was one of the most involved and sociable officers that year. He was president the next year, and he did a great job with that. The organization sucked before he took over, and he helped to turn it into something that people enjoyed, rather than just a pre-law fraternity for a résumé.

As for claims that he isn’t a minority and that his family is wealthy? Both are completely wrong. He is definitely Hispanic, and I never heard him “brag” or say anything about not being Hispanic. I also never got the impression that he was rich; in fact, I know his family was the opposite.

Eric is a caring friend and an extremely nice person. I never heard him say rude things about other people, and I never saw him angry. I was shocked to see [him accused of doing] something like this. He can appear goofy and loud to an outsider, but I don’t think that anyone who ever actually took the time to talk to him and get to know him would think that he could do something like this.

That’s also a very strong testimonial. If Eric Cuellar winds up needing character witnesses, it seems that he’ll have an ample supply.

Of course, he isn’t perfect — nobody is — as the writer of that last message shared with us:

He has faults — he is completely lacking in common sense and (strangely enough) was always someone who followed rules to the point that it got annoying. But he isn’t a monster….

I am sad for him that this will probably end his career….

Actually, if it makes you feel better, I wouldn’t be so sure of that. First, remember that the police’s claims about Cuellar are merely allegations; if he is acquitted of the charges, he should have no problem.

Second, over the past six years that I’ve been writing for Above the Law, I have covered numerous law students and lawyers accused of misconduct. Whenever I do a “where are they now” search, just for my own curiosity, I generally find that the individual in question is alive and well, gainfully employed, and even thriving.

I could give you numerous examples, but I’ll refrain for now, since I don’t want to be accused of dredging up old scandals. So just try it for yourself: think of some law student or lawyer involved a controversy or scandal, look them up on Google, and see what they’re up to today. Chances are that, unless the person is in prison or deceased, they are doing quite well. (If you find a counterexample, email us and let us know.)

As for Justin Teixeira, we haven’t received quite as many testimonials as we have for Eric Cuellar, for whatever reason. One source told us that many view Teixeira as funny or entertaining, offering this interesting information: “It has been speculated that Justin acted uproariously to garner attention from his smarter, taller, and much more attractive brother (that’s right, ladies and gents, Justin is ‘the ugly one’ in the family).”

Wow. I have previously professed my admiration for Teixeira’s good looks. If he has a brother who’s even better-looking than he is, said brother should be a male model.

Because this is an ongoing story, we welcome additional comments about Cullear or Teixeira, positive or negative. You can email us or text us (646-820-8477). Please note, however, that we may wait until further developments unfold in the case before we run another post on them. Thanks.

Earlier: The Accused Berkeley Bird Beheaders: The Arrest Report, The Dean’s Reaction, and More
A Closer Look at the Alleged Berkeley Bird Murderers
Law Students of the Weekend: Alleged Berkeley Bird Beheaders

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