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Berkeley Law Student Pleads Not Guilty In Vegas Bird Beheading

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24-year-old Eric Cuellar (left) and 24-year-old Justin Teixeira are accused of killing an exotic bird at a Las Vegas casino on October 12, 2012. The pair said they are students at the UC Berkeley Law School. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police)

24-year-old Eric Cuellar (left) and 24-year-old Justin Teixeira are accused of killing an exotic bird at a Las Vegas casino on October 12, 2012. The pair said they are students at the UC Berkeley Law School. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police)

LAS VEGAS (CBS / AP) — A University of California, Berkeley, law student is fighting felony and misdemeanor charges in what prosecutors allege was the torture death and beheading of an exotic bird at a Las Vegas Strip resort.

Attorney Michael Pariente entered a not guilty plea to all charges Monday on behalf of Justin Alexander Teixeira in the Oct. 12 decapitation of the helmeted guineafowl in a wildlife habitat exhibit at the Flamingo Las Vegas.

Teixeira, 24, who police said lives in Placerville and attends Berkeley, was not present.

Pariente issued a statement afterward saying he intends to deal with the case in court, not in the media.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Bill Kephart set an April 24 hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for Teixeira to stand trial in state court.

Teixeira is accused of felony animal killing and torturing charges that could each get him up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine, and misdemeanor instigating or engaging in animal cruelty and conspiracy to torture an animal charges carrying the possibility of time in the county jail.

A felony conviction could block Teixeira’s admission to a state bar and jeopardize his legal career.

Another Berkeley student charged in the case pleaded guilty Jan. 10 to a misdemeanor instigating an act of cruelty to an animal charge.

Eric Cuellar, 25, of Berkeley, was fined $200, ordered to pay $150 in restitution to the Flamingo. He was also ordered to serve 48 hours of community service and enroll in an alcohol counseling class.

The Flamingo wildlife habitat is a garden area with ponds and streams that contains several different types of birds.

Police say Teixeira, Cuellar and another person are seen on security videotape chasing the gray bird to a spot near where the body was found. The video has not been made public.

A witness identified Teixeira and Cuellar and told police she saw Teixeira throw the bird’s body at Cuellar.

Police said the bird’s body was found on a walkway, and the head was found amid some nearby rocks.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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