LAS VEGAS (AP) — A University of California, Berkeley, law student accused of beheading an exotic bird at a Las Vegas Strip resort is headed to trial on felony charges that could get him up to eight years in prison and jeopardize his legal career, authorities said Wednesday.
Justin Alexander Teixeira, 25, of Placerville, Calif., appeared in Las Vegas Justice Court and waived an evidence hearing on animal killing and animal torture charges in the Oct. 12 death of a helmeted guineafowl named Turk at the Flamingo Las Vegas.
He is expected to plead not guilty at arraignment May 13 in Clark County District Court.
Teixeira’s lawyer, Michael Pariente, said Teixeira is in his third year at the University of California Berkeley and has excellent grades. He declined to comment about the case.
Appearing in court early avoided media, and waiving the preliminary hearing avoided airing of security videotape images allegedly showing Teixeira and two other Berkeley students chasing the gray bird to a walkway where the bird’s body was found. The head was found amid nearby rocks. Court documents do not indicate exactly how the bird was beheaded.
Prosecutor Frank Coumou said it appeared the three men were intoxicated.
Prosecutors also have cellphone video evidence from former co-defendant Eric Cuellar, and a woman was prepared to testify that she saw Teixeira throw the decapitated bird’s body at Cuellar, Coumou said.
The videos have not been made public.
Cuellar, 25, of Berkeley, pleaded guilty Jan. 10 to a misdemeanor charge of instigating an act of cruelty to an animal. He was fined $200 and ordered to pay $150 in restitution to the Flamingo, serve 48 hours of community service and undergo alcohol counseling.
Coumou said Wednesday the third Berkeley student may still be charged in the case.
Teixeira told court officials he is due to graduate from law school this spring. A felony conviction could block his admission to a state bar.
Teixeira also faces lesser animal cruelty and animal torture charges that could get him up to 18 months in county jail.
Justice of the Peace William Kephart set a separate trial July 24 on those misdemeanor charges.
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