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

The Accused Berkeley Bird Beheaders: The Arrest Report, The Dean’s Reaction, and More

Left to right: Eric Cuellar, mystery man, and Justin Teixeira.

The story 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 taken flight. It has made national and international headlines.

Given the intense public interest, we will continue to cover this flap. Keep reading for Berkeley Law’s reaction to the charges, tidbits about Teixeira and Cuellar from people who know them, and details from the arrest report — including mention of a mysterious third man….

For starters, why has this story captured the public imagination? I can identity two reasons: (1) people’s love of animals, especially cute ones, and (2) people’s hatred of lawyers (or lawyers in training). Here is what one random reader wrote to us (note that she assumes the truth of the allegations — which are, as we have repeatedly noted, merely allegations at this point):

These two dudes should be in jail. People who kill animals for fun are mentally screwed up. Eric Cuellar and Justin Teixeira are sick individuals. (I don’t care if they took drugs or drank beer before they killed this bird.) I feel sorry for their parents (and future girlfriends). This article made me want to throw up!

But that’s just one person’s reaction. Many in the Berkeley law community are rallying around the suspects. Here’s what one Boaltie told us:

I don’t have any additional information except that there was a group of at least 20 Berkeley Law students going to Vegas for the weekend, and now none of them will talk about what happened. They, and much of the rest of the program, are all rallying around these guys. It’s a pack animal mentality out there….

I haven’t even been able to vent my frustration to classmates for fear of being totally ostracized. These guys have just made Boalt look terrible, and we haven’t had a good year when you think about [various other scandals involving Boalt grads]. We don’t need anymore of this crap.

Anyway, everyone is, indeed, in support of these guys, and I’m not quite sure why. If you can’t hold your liquor without going on a violent rampage, you don’t deserve respect.

But we believe in presenting both sides of the story here at Above the Law (provided, of course, that sources from both sides come forward). We haven’t heard from very many defenders of Cuellar and Teixeira, but here is one who contacted us:

I know Eric Cuellar very well. It is not in his character to do this. I was in Phi Alpha Delta with him. He was always an upstanding guy and an excellent leader. I don’t understand how this happened. I still feel like there is a lot missing to the story. I still view Eric Cuellar as my friend and will support him.

We welcome more such testimonials from friends of Cuellar and Teixeira. It seems that many are keeping silent, but if you’d like to offer support for them, just email us. (Our general rule: we may quote from your message and may describe you generally — e.g., a law school classmate, a college friend — but we won’t name you.)

What is the law school’s official response? One could describe it as support, albeit qualified. Here is the statement of Dean Christopher Edley:

I’m extremely troubled by news accounts of the students’ actions off campus, but it’s up to the Nevada legal system to examine the facts and rule in this case. It’s premature to speculate about any possible consequences; the justice system must run its course.

It’s eminently sensible for a law school dean to urge respect for the legal system. Because all we have are mere allegations right now, a rush to judgment would be inappropriate.

With respect to the legal process, the wheels of justice turn slowly — according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Cuellar and Teixeira’s next court date is February 11. While we wait, people will inevitably talk and speculate about the allegations and the defendants. For better or worse, it’s human nature. (There’s an interesting meta-discussion over how much discussion we should have of this incident, in the comments over at Nuts & Boalts, the popular Boalt Hall blog.)

Here is one former frat brother of Cuellar who won’t be serving as a character witness for the defense:

I knew Eric Cuellar VERY well…. We were both in Phi Alpha Delta together. The kid was and clearly still is a fratboy douche. The world revolved around beer pong and UT Football….. He was on the board I believe our second year and he NEVER came to anything that had didn’t involve sports. That was the same year the president at the time put together an awesome formal initiation, and [Eric] shows up in wrinkled khakis and a fraternity blazer it looked like he slept in.

Don’t get me wrong, as a person to hang out with, Eric was cool. If you wanted to party, he’s the guy to call — BUT when one of our mutual friends called me and told me [about the allegations], I wasn’t surprised one bit…. People are going to make excuses for him, typically other frat type douchebags, but is this seriously what our profession needs?

Personally, I hope Boalt makes an example out of him. It was kind of annoying how he bragged about getting in because he’s a “minority.” That kid is as much a minority as Mitt Romney. I’m sure his parents came and got him off AGAIN.

That definitely perked our ears up, especially given how affirmative action is in the news these days, with a major case pending the Supreme Court. That case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, happens to involve Cuellar’s undergraduate alma mater.

So we asked our source — what exactly do you mean by claiming that Eric Cuellar is “as much a minority as Mitt Romney”? Are you sure that he doesn’t qualify in some way, shape or form as Latino? Given his last name and his appearance, we could totally see him being Hispanic. Said our source:

I’m not exactly sure, but he claimed to be Hispanic, and I know for a fact he claimed it on his applications. It was kind of a running joke amongst us. His theory was: How can they prove he isn’t, given his name?

He MAY be [some type of Hispanic]. I have no valid records or info to claim he isn’t. I guess my gripe is how he bragged about playing the system. He used the minority card to gain admissions when he comes from a particularly well-off and privileged background. It really was a joke within the fraternity….

Just put that out there as an example of the kind of person he is. Entitled and selfish and willing to do anything to get [ahead].

Well, if Cuellar is in fact Latino in some way, I don’t see a problem with his using this in the admissions process, even if he comes from a privileged background. This is affirmative action in 2012, focused on race and ethnicity rather than class. Until we adopt a new system, it’s perfectly ethical for upper-middle-class minorities to milk their minority status for all it’s worth.

UPDATE (10/17/2012, 9 AM): We have been advised that Eric Cuellar is in fact Latino — whether he’s a Wise Latino is debatable — and that he obtained a high score on the LSAT.

Now, on to the arrest report from the Las Vegas police. It’s very detailed and interesting….

(hidden for your protection)

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