Want To Practice Law? Don’t Behead A Bird

berkeley bird beheader

Justin Alexander Teixeira, then a 3L at Berkeley Law, poses for his mugshot.

Planning on celebrating law school graduation with a Vegas escapade?
Please, for the love of all that is good in this world, don’t do something like this: In October 2012, a University of California, Berkeley Law School 3L named Justin Alexander Teixeira decapitated—yes, decapitated—an exotic bird at the Flamingo resort in Las Vegas. On Monday, Teixeira, now a graduate, was sentenced to up to four years of probation and monthly work at an animal shelter; before the sentencing, he spent six months in a military-style prison boot camp.
Security footage shows Teixeira and two other Berkeley students laughing and running after the bird in a wildlife habitat garden area. In full view of some seriously unlucky hotel guests who were having breakfast, Teixeira twisted the bird’s neck and tossed its head.
Teixeira’s defense attorney Michael Pariente said his client was drunk during the incident. The thing is, for the average Joe, being drunk means dancing goofily, or maybe saying something mildly offensive—it doesn’t mean straight up snapping a bird’s neck.
Surprisingly, Teixeira minored in environmental studies as an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, Above The Law reports. He was even hired by the Environment & Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice during his 1L summer. Less surprisingly—because this whole story seems pretty fratty—he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at UCLA.
Teixeira formally apologized to the state of Nevada for the death of the bird, a helmeted guineafowl named Turk. In his first public comment since the incident, he called the beheading the worst moment of his life. “If there was anything I could do to undo it, I would,” he said. That’s something of a relief.
But will that drunken moment prevent him from becoming a lawyer? Maybe, because killing another person’s animal is a felony.
When you sign up for a career in the legal world, you essentially commit to not breaking the law or screwing up in any serious way. During boot camp, Teixeira found out that he’d passed the California bar exam, but he hasn’t applied for the required moral character determination. According to the state bar website, “persons who have been convicted of violent felonies, felonies involving moral turpitude and crimes involving a breach of fiduciary duty are presumed not to be of good moral character in the absence of a pardon or a showing of overwhelming reform and rehabilitation.”
Teixeira could still become a lawyer. If he were to finish his probation term without any problems, he could get his sentence reduced to a gross misdemeanor. He could also do his best to demonstrate that he’s a changed man, a goal he seems to already have in mind. He received top honors in the boot camp.
But wouldn’t it have been easier to just, you know, not behead the bird? Regardless of what happens to Teixeira’s sentence, he’s made national news for pointlessly killing an innocent animal. Consider this a cautionary tale.

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