Change of plea in albatross killings case angers animal welfare advocates

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAENA POINT, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former Punahou School student charged with killing federally-protected albatrosses at Kaena Point pleaded no contest to one count of animal cruelty Thursday.

But prosecutors dropped more than a dozen other animal cruelty charges against 19-year-old Christian Gutierrez, a move that angered animal rights activists.

"I'm disgusted. I just can't understand why they would drop these charges. It's a very serious act of cruelty," said Cathy Goeggel, of Animal Rights Hawaii.

Deputy Prosecutor Janice Futa said the deal was necessary to secure Gutierrez's testimony against others involved in the December 2015 incident, when a group of Punahou School students and graduates allegedly killed at least 15 birds inside the wildlife sanctuary. They're also accused of destroying 17 nests.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife investigator, one of the birds was killed with a pellet gun while another was bludgeoned to death. Several birds reportedly had their lower limbs cut off.

Along with Gutierrez, two other Punahou students were accused of killing Laysan albatrosses and destroying their nests.

But because they were minors at the time, the boys are being prosecuted in Family Court.

Gutierrez is seeking a deferral of his no-contest plea, and so could avoid jail time when he is sentenced on June. 1.

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