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Prosecutions conclude for law students involved in bird decapitation

Updated Thursday, June 13, 2013 | 11:29 a.m.

Justin Teixeira

Justin Teixeira

Map of Wildlife Habitat

Wildlife Habitat

3555 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas

The last of the University of California, Berkeley students implicated in the October death of an exotic bird on the Las Vegas Strip has pleaded guilty to a felony charge.

Justin Teixeira, who graduated in May, pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing another person’s animal. The Clark County District Attorney’s Office pegged him as the decapitator of Turk, a 14-year-old helmeted guinea fowl, on Oct. 12, 2012, at the Flamingo hotel’s Wildlife Habitat.

The Class D felony carries with it a sentence of one to four years in prison with the option of probation and a maximum fine of $5,000.

Teixeira agreed to surrender to the Nevada Department of Corrections to attend a four-month boot camp program for young first-time offenders. If he completes the program, he will be eligible for probation.

The other two men involved already have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and met requirements of their pleas.

Eric Cuellar, who just finished his second year at the law school, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, paid a fine and restitution to the Flamingo and was credited for jail time.

Berkeley graduate Hazhir Kargaran, whose involvement was discovered after footage of the death was found on Cuellar’s cellphone, negotiated a plea before being charged, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Frank Coumou. Kargaran pleaded guilty to three misdemeanors and paid a $1,500 fine, Coumou said.

Coumou said it was obvious from video footage the men were intoxicated, but that didn’t mean they weren’t responsible for their actions.

“They can be as skunk drunk as they want; it is not an excuse and it is not a defense,” Coumou said.

While the bird’s grisly death was a “crying shame,” Coumou said he thought some good may have come out of it: A more dogged approach toward animal cruelty.

"It's sad that Turk had to die but I think it really has refocused our attention on some of these cases that should be perhaps be prosecuted a little more vigorously," Coumou said.

To that end, District Attorney Steve Wolfson is scheduled Thursday to announce steps his office is taking to deal with animal-cruelty cases.

Every year, the D.A.’s Office said, officers respond to more than 5,000 animal-cruelty calls in Southern Nevada.

CORRECTION: This version corrects the spelling of Eric Cuellar. | (June 13, 2013)

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