Student gets 45 days behind bars for albatross deaths at Kaena Point
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former Punahou School student was sentenced Thursday to 45 days behind bars for slaughtering protected birds at Kaena Point in 2015.
Christian Gutierrez was also sentenced to one year probation and ordered to do 200 hours of community service, and was remanded to custody after the sentencing hearing.
"The people have every right to be angry and disgusted at my behavior," Gutierrez said. "I am ashamed of myself."
Prosecutors and wildlife conservationists had been pushing for one year in jail for Gutierrez, calling the crime savage.
Authorities accused Gutierrez and two other young people in the killings of at least 15 Laysan albatrosses at Kaena Point Natural Reserve.
But on Thursday, state Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case said the sentence sent a strong message to the community.
"The fact that this man will serve jail time and community service recognizes the severity of these killings and the terrible impact it will have for years to come on the albatross breeding colony at Kaena Point," Case said.
"Jail time, combined with the fine, sends a very strong message to the community that there is no tolerance for abuse, destruction, or killing of Hawaii's unique and precious wildlife – whether it's albatross, monk seals, turtles, or anything else."
In March, Gutierrez pleaded no contest to animal cruelty, theft and other charges.
His defense attorney had asked the judge to defer acceptance of the plea, which would allow Gutierrez to avoid a conviction if he stays out of trouble for a specified amount of time.
Two years ago, Gutierrez and a group of friends from Punahou drove to Kaena Point to go camping.
While they were there, at least 15 Laysan albatrosses were bludgeoned to death with a bat and machete and shot at with a pellet gun, according to prosecutors. The youths cut off the birds' legs, tied the dead birds together and threw them into the ocean. Nests and eggs were left smashed.
Defense attorney Myles Breiner, who represents Gutierrez, said because the college student was 18 when he was charged, he's had to bear the brunt of the public backlash calling for punishment of privileged teens.
Two other cases are being handled in confidential juvenile court proceedings, he said.
Gutierrez recently completed his sophomore year studying film at NYU.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.