Nineteen-year-old Christian Gutierrez, one of three people charged with slaughtering Laysan albatrossess at Kaena Point in 2015, agreed to a plea deal Thursday in Circuit Court.

Gutierrez was charged with 19 criminal counts in December and originally pleaded not guilty.

On Thursday, 14 animal cruelty charges were dropped, but he pleaded no contest to five counts including: theft, cruelty to animals, criminal property damage, prohibited activities with respect to indigenous wildlife and introduced wild birds, and a prohibited act in a natural area reserve.

Gutteriez Albatross . 27 dec 2016
Christian Gutierrez at a hearing in December. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Judge Jeannette Castagnetti outlined the plea deal, in which Gutierrez could face up to a year in jail plus thousands of dollars in fines, though he’s seeking a deferred acceptance of his plea in hopes of avoiding imprisonment.

Gutierrez agreed to be debriefed by the prosecuting attorney, be available as a witness for hearings or trials, refrain from committing crimes for the duration of the agreement, and give up his right to remain silent.

Gutierrez was ordered to write a letter of apology and pay restitution to Pacific Rim Conservation, which conducts research at the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve.

Raymond Justice and Carter Mesker were also arrested for the killings. They were 17 when the crime occurred and were not identified in public court documents until later. Justice and Mesker’s cases are being decided confidentially through Family Court.

Deputy Prosecutor Janice Futa said the plea deal was arranged to get Gutierrez’s cooperation for testimony against the other defendants.

Up to 15 albatrosses were slaughtered at Kaena Point on Dec. 28, 2015. In some cases their feet were cut off so that identification tags could be removed. Eggs were smashed, and bird monitoring equipment worth $3,000 was stolen. One bird was shot in the head with a .177 caliber air rifle pellet.

The seabirds are protected federally and internationally. Albatrosses are gentle, trusting birds about 3 feet tall that can live past 65 years.

Gutierrez is scheduled to be sentenced June 1, when he’ll be back in Hawaii from New York University, where he is a sophomore. Gutierrez may also request to complete any probation in New York.

After the hearing, Deputy Prosecutor Janice Futa told reporters the plea deal was arranged to get Gutierrez’s cooperation for testimony against the other defendants.

Defense attorney Myles Breiner said Gutierrez was taking responsibility for his actions and may serve jail time. He declined to elaborate on what happened the night of the slaughter, but claimed Gutierrez wasn’t the most responsible of the co-defendants.

Biologists Lindsay Young and Eric VanderWerf, who conduct research at the sanctuary for Pacific Rim Conservation, also attended Thursday’s hearing.

Eric VanderWerf and Lindsay Young banding an albatross at Kaena Point. Courtesy of Heather Eijzenga

Young, executive director of Pacific Rim Conservation, scoffed when Castagnetti announced Gutierrez was required to apologize and pay restitution to the non-profit. Clearly upset, she pulled Futa aside to speak after the hearing.

“It will take at least eight years to replace the breeding birds that were lost that night,” Young told Civil Beat in November.

Gutierrez turned himself in to police almost a year after the killings. He was released on $25,000 bail.

The defendants bragged about the slaughter and showed off some of the birds’ identification tags. They posted pictures of the dead albatrosses to social media accounts, which were later removed.

Read Gutierrez’s plea deal below:

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