New details about the investigation into the slaughter of 15 protected Laysan albatrosses at Kaena Point are contained in court documents filed by an attorney for one of the defendants.
The documents include theU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s investigation report, as well as the identities of two juvenile defendants in the case who were 17 at the time of the attack on the federally protected seabirds in December 2015.
In the documents, attorney Myles Breiner identifies Raymond Justice and Carter Mesker as co-defendants in the case. Justice and Mesker were 17 years old when the seabirds were slaughtered in December 27, 2015.
One of the dead albatrosses in a nest after the December 2016 attack.
Courtesy of Department of Land and Natural Resources
As minors, Justice and Mesker have been dealt with in Family Court, where all proceedings, including names of defendants, are kept confidential.
Breiner is representing a third defendant, Christian Gutierrez, a Punahou School graduate who is currently enrolled as a sophomore at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Gutierrez is being tried as an adult because he was 18 at the time of the attack.His trial is scheduled to begin in Circuit Court on Feb 27.
He is facing 19 criminal counts including theft, criminal property damage and 15 counts of animal cruelty, one for each of the albatrosses killed.
Christian Gutierrez is being tried as an adult in the albatross attack.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Attorney Todd Eddins apparently represents Justice.Eddins said Tuesday that “I will not confirm or deny representation of any juvenile in confidential Family Court proceedings.”
But Eddins added, “It is not much of a stretch to dub an attorney ‘ethically challenged’ who would publicly disclose confidential and sensitive information pertaining to Family Court juvenile proceedings.”
The defendants allegedly went on a rampage, killing the sea birds with a machete, a baseball bat and a pellet gun and smashing their nests and eggs.
A foot was cut off one of the birds, the report stated.
One of the birds was found with a .177 caliber pellet from an air rifle in itshead, and another died of blunt force trauma with one of its lower limbs removed, the report stated.
The seabirds were nesting in a protected wildlife sanctuary near where the youths had set up their campsite, said investigators who contributed to the report.
All of the defendants have past or present ties to Punahou School.
All of their names are in pre-trial motions Breiner filed to try to get the case against Gutierrez dismissed. The motions will be heard by Circuit Court Judge Jeannette Castagnettiat 2 p.m. Thursday.
In the documents, Breinerclaims the Honolulu prosecutor’s office has been unfairly inconsistent in the proceedings because Mesker was allowed to negotiate a pre-trial agreement early last year while Gutierrezwas indicted a year after the albatross incident.
Breiner said he was given inadequate time to “independently investigate the facts affecting and supporting his defense and negotiate a pre-indictment deal as Co-Defendant Carter Mesker was able to do.”
In court documents, Breiner also suggests that Gutierrez might have been charged with too many counts of animal cruelty since it is not clear how many birds were allegedly killed by Justice or by Mesker.
The prosecutor’s office is asking that Breiner’s motions be denied.
Chuck Parker, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said Tuesday that the office erred in sending out the Fish and Wildlife’s investigation to Breiner without redacting the name of a minor witness.
“We have asked the defense to seal the document in question to prevent further dissemination of the information,” Parker said.
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Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.