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September 4, 2015

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Cal law student pleads guilty to charge related to death of bird at Flamingo Wildlife Habitat

Updated Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 | 3 p.m.

Eric Cuellar

Eric Cuellar

Justin Teixeira

Justin Teixeira

Map of Wildlife Habitat

Wildlife Habitat

3555 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas

One of the University of California-Berkeley law students charged in conjunction with the death of an exotic bird in October at the Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat has pleaded guilty.

Eric Cuellar, 24, pleaded guilty Thursday in Las Vegas Justice Court to a misdemeanor charge of instigating, engaging in or furthering an act of cruelty to an animal in the death of Turk, a 14-year-old helmeted guinea fowl that had resided at the habitat.

Cuellar’s attorney, Richard Schonfeld, said his client was sentenced to two days in the Clark County Detention Center, ordered to perform 48 hours of community service and undergo alcohol counseling. In addition, Cuellar was fined $200 and ordered to pay $150 restitution to the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat.

The court granted Cuellar credit for jail time already served, so he will not have to report back to the detention center, Schonfeld said.

Asked why his client pleaded guilty, Schonfeld said, “He just wanted to be able to put this behind him.”

Schonfeld also noted Cuellar was charged with a misdemeanor and was not accused of personally harming the bird.

Meanwhile, fellow Cal law student, 24-year-old Justin Teixeira, is scheduled to be arraigned next month in Las Vegas Justice Court on charges he tortured and killed the bird. Frank Coumou, Clark County chief deputy district attorney, said it's possible Cuellar will be called to testify if the case against Teixeira goes to trial.

According to a Metro Police report, a witness told security she saw two men, later identified as Cuellar and Teixeira, walk out of bushes in the habitat with the dead bird named Turk, on the morning of Oct. 12. Teixeira, who was holding the bird, allegedly threw it toward Cuellar and said, "I (expletive) killed wildlife," the report states.

Surveillance video captured a third person with Teixeira and Cuellar following the bird.

Coumou said an ongoing investigation could result in criminal charges against two other individuals.

Teixeira remains been free on bond.

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