Albatross killer sentenced to jail

The other day I posted on the vicious killer and maimer of 15 threatened Laysan albatrosses, one Christian Gutierrez, a 20 year old NYU student who did the carnage on Oahu with some fellow thugs. Six of them were on a camping trip, and three of them (two juveniles and Gutierrez) were charged with a variety of crimes, including animal cruelty and destruction of property. Gutierrez originally pleaded “not guilty,” but changed his plea to “no contest” after a plea deal in which he’d be allowed to face lesser charges in return for testifying against the other murderers.

There was some lively discussion on this site about whether Gutierrez should get jail time; I said “yes” because it would be a deterrent to those who hurt wild animals—something that’s often not even prosecuted.

The judge rendered his decision yesterday, and it’s the slammer for Christian—but only for 45 days. He also has to pay $1000 for “his share of restitution for the stolen monitoring equipment”, and must serve 200 hours of community service.

ABC News reports:

A college student who graduated from one of Hawaii’s most prestigious high schools — former President Barack Obama’s alma mater — was led out of a courtroom in handcuffs Thursday after a judge sentenced him to 45 days in jail for slaughtering vulnerable seabirds at a nature reserve.

Prosecutors and wildlife conservationists urged a judge to sentence Christian Gutierrez to a year behind bars, saying he deserves full punishment for the grisly killing of federally protected Laysan albatrosses.

Gutierrez and a group of buddies from the Honolulu prep school Punahou went camping in 2015 on the westernmost tip of the island of Oahu. Prosecutors say they killed at least 15 Laysan albatrosses near the Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve by bludgeoning them with a bat and machete and shooting them with a pellet gun. The teens cut off the birds’ legs, tied the birds together and threw them over a cliff into in the ocean, prosecutors said. Nests and eggs were smashed.

In March, Gutierrez pleaded no contest to animal cruelty, theft and other charges. He gave in to peer pressure and initially denied his involvement because he was embarrassed to tell his parents, said his defense attorney, Myles Breiner.

. . . The small courtroom’s gallery was standing-room-only for his sentencing, where a stuffed albatross sat on the prosecution table. [JAC: Good move since in criminal trials the prosecution often shows photos of the victims.] Environmental Court Judge Jeannette Castagnetti listened for several hours as wildlife conservationists and state officials described the impact of the destruction.

“He turned my favorite place on Earth into a crime scene,” Lindsay Young, executive director of Pacific Rim Conservation said through tears, describing how the crimes left her “life’s work and spirit shattered.”

William Aila, former director of the state Department of Land Natural Resources, chanted in Hawaiian then urged forgiveness and a “period of solitude” for Gutierrez.

The Laysan albatross is culturally significant to Native Hawaiians who consider them aumakua, or “revered ancestors and guardian spirits,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum, which called them “peaceful and trusting birds who do not recognize predators.”

Unfortunately, there were echoes of Cntrl-Leftism in the comment, invoking Gutierrez’s “privilege”. Given that he’s of Hispanic extraction, this is a bit ironic, for Hispanics are considered an oppressed minority in the U.S. If Gutierrez was indeed well off, then calling him “privileged” means that we cannot use ethnic background as a sign of entitlement. The report says this:

The killings “smacked of privilege and entitlement,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Janice Futa said.

Gutierrez had to bear the brunt of public backlash that called for punishment of privileged teens because he was the only one charged who was 18 at the time, said his defense attorney, Myles Breiner. Two other cases are being handled confidentially in juvenile court, he said.

The Washington Post, which questions whether Gutierrez got off too easy, also invokes “privilege”:

In Hawaii, the albatross killings were particularly shocking because they implicated privileged young men who allegedly committed the crime for the fun of it — and who should have known better. All are former classmates from Punahou School, where the eighth-grade curriculum includes a field trip to one of the world’s best-studied albatross breeding colonies at Ka‘ena Point. That the accused were privy to the importance of the remote site as a safety zone for the vulnerable species has deepened public outrage over the assault.

I applaud the sentence, which is long enough to act as a deterrent (or so I think) but not so long—it could have been a year—that he’ll be exposed for a lengthy period to hardened criminals. He’ll also have a criminal record, which I think is appropriate and may be necessary if he proves to be a sociopath.

(From the Washington Post): A Laysan albatross and chick at the Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. (Courtesy of Lindsay Young)


Christian Gutierrez appears in a Honolulu courtroom to plead not guilty to animal cruelty charges. (AP Photo/Jennifer Kelleher, File)


h/t: Avis (whose ornithologist mom named her after birds)


  1. Steve Zeoli
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    The other day you mentioned three benefits of prison time: deterrence, sequestering of harm doers, and rehabilitation. I’d add a fourth benefit, which is that it is important to a society that we sense that “justice” has been served. This feels like justice and it makes me feel better. I bet that is the case for a lot of people.

  2. Phil Rounds
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    I didn’t comment on the previous posting. So i’ll deposit my 2 cents here.

    I think punishment (in the legal sense) has three goals; To separate dangerous and harmful people from society, to hopefully rehabilitate criminals, and to make the statement that society will not tolerate their behaviour. So, yeah, he deserves it.
    I wouldn’t say we have the right to punish him out of anger…that would be more akin to vengeance.

    I’d like to see him do a year, minimum, of volunteer work for some conservationist group…so he can fully appreciate the consequences of what he’s done.

    • somer
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      I agree though I think rather he should have got at least 6 months in jail, and I think he may well be beyond active involvement in some conservation program – why would they want him potentially endangering their charges. The problem is deliberate animal violence offenders almost never get jailed. What he did was deliberate and extraordinarily cruel and done to a rare endangered species in an irreplacable program. If he felt pressured by his peers he should have seen it was wrong and stood up to it. He is an adult at 20 and that is part of it means to be an adult. He comes from a privileged school and even if he didn’t there is no excuse. He now has a criminal record which will hopefully give him serious pause for thought about what he did throughout his adult life. A real slap in the face to sadistic exhibitionist bravado. And the other two younger ones being handled in juvenile court should not get the privilege of confidentiality – the charge is too serious in this case. For once these people should be forced to pay the penalty of their brutality towards animals.

  3. Hempenstein
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Was there any sense of why?

  4. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I didn’t know he did this with a group of others. I think that makes it less likely he has psychopathic tendencies, which is what I thought originally. Now I think he’s just your run-of-the-mill a-hole and that the sentence is appropriate. Unfortunately, it is the sort of thing young men, entitled or not, do when they get together.

    If the young men come across as entitled, they probably are, which in my opinion has a lot more to do with wealth than race these days.

    While I like the idea of him having to do volunteer work with an appropriate group so he learns to appreciate the albatross or something else, I wouldn’t like to be the group forced to take him on, especially if he didn’t want to be there.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      As I understand it young girls are socialized to be equally contemptible in groups today, ranging from school bullying to robbing the very young and old.

      They may still not be as acting out, biological and remaining socialization differences and all. Specifically violence against animals seems rare, but mistreatment of pets is equally frequent between sexes I think.

      But contemptible girls seem to do well enough. And frankly I would have been be surprised if they were not, in a feminist – equal opportunity – society.

      • Rita
        Posted July 7, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink


      • BJ
        Posted July 7, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        I agree as well. My friend has been a high school guidance counselor for fourteen years, and she says the same thing I’ve heard many teachers say over the years: girls are even nastier to each other than boys. At least when boys fight, it tends to be a one-off altercation and they leave their anger behind, while the girls engage in sometimes years-long campaigns of rumor-mongering, backbiting, ostracizing, and physical altercations.

        • Se Habla Espol
          Posted July 10, 2017 at 12:28 am | Permalink

          The Wife gives the same report of her days in school (50-odd years ago), reinforced by The Daughter’s experience, some years later.

          IOW, high-school girls being as bad as high-school boys is not a new phenomenon.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted July 7, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        I agree. Girls do the same, though it’s still less likely to manifest itself in physical violence. Having said that, even in NZ there have been recent cases of some horrific violence by teenage girls.

        • Posted July 7, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

          Not recent, but Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme come to mind. Was the first film I saw Kate Winslet in too.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, I thought of them when replying, but decided that was a different situation so didn’t mention them. That was more two people bringing out the worst in each other in my mind. Truly horrible all the same.

    • Zach
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      In Hawaii, the albatross killings were particularly shocking because they implicated privileged young men who allegedly committed the crime for the fun of it — and who should have known better. All are former classmates from Punahou School, where the eighth-grade curriculum includes a field trip to one of the world’s best-studied albatross breeding colonies at Ka‘ena Point.

      In this case, “privileged” seems to imply “educated,” because the “young men” were already exposed to albatrosses via school.

      If that’s the gist, and if these sentences are taken at face value, they betray a remarkably patronizing attitude towards the “uneducated” (not to mention young women). As if, say, the only way anyone could know not to engage in sadistic and destructive behavior towards defenseless birds is if they were taught so in school.

      • Posted July 7, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        It is almost certainly not about being educated. Privilege undoubtedly refers to his attendance at Punahou School, an expensive private high school (tuition is over 22k/year). This is a school primarily for the very rich. THAT’S where the “privilege” comes in. Has nothing to do with educated vs uneducated or men vs women.

        Among its alumni is one Barack H. Obama. Other notables who attended were Sun Yat Sen, president of China, Steve Case, founder of AOL and even royalty, including the Hawaiian Prince Kuhio namesake of many places, parks and memorials in Hawaii.

        • Zach
          Posted July 7, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          The specific instance of education cited is that of a field trip to an albatross breeding area—a trip which students at a poorer, public school might have been unable to make. Wealth and education go hand in hand, obviously. If you like, though, I can refashion my paragraph to make the same point:

          If these sentences are taken at face value, they betray a remarkably patronizing attitude towards the poor. As if, say, the only way anyone could have the decency not to engage in sadistic and destructive behavior towards defenseless birds is if they were raised in an affluent environment.

  5. veroxitatis
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I hope the community service will focus on tasks which may make this youth better understand the enormity of his actions.
    Incidentally, does any subscriber know whether Hawaii State criminal law reduce custodial sentences in return for good behaviour. In the UK 45 days would normally earn remission of 22.5 days.

    • Posted July 7, 2017 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Exactly how does one make a 20-year-old understand for the first time in his life that mutilating, torturing, and slowly killing innocent animals is … oh gosh, kinda not okay?

      Gutierrez and his accomplices are not human, and should’ve been put away forever or simply executed.

  6. W.Benson
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    With just 45 days, he will be able to go back to NY in September and continue his college studies.

    • mikeyc
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      One would hope so.

    • BJ
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      It’s a good thing he didn’t tweet an offensive joke, or he might be expelled!

    • rickflick
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      If he does return to school I can imagine his new reputation might cause a serious reduction in his social life. Can you imagine having to share a dorm room with him?

  7. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Oh, so Gutierrez was adult at the time!? I must have read a group description putting them at 17.

    Then it is a fitting action.

  8. Kevin Wenzel
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    He got off easier than the Ancient Mariner and his crew… although perhaps the social shaming he’ll endure is close enough to that ordeal (and that was a single albatross!).

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      You reckon he roams the NYU campus, stoppething one of three, to tell the tortuous tale of his trip to Hawaii?

      • Andy Lowry
        Posted July 7, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        Unhand me, greybeard loon!

  9. Gayle
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Disgusting POS. I’d’ve given more than 45 days. No explanation from him as to why he did it, I guess? “Peer pressure” from younger boys is such a cop out of an explanation.

    • darrelle
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      Peer pressure from younger boys seems to me to be a very plausible and possibly significant factor. But that’s just an explanation. It sure as hell isn’t a good excuse.

      I can’t conceive of a good excuse except some kind of serious cognitive issue which rendered him incapable of understanding what he was doing. And that sure doesn’t seem to be the case.

      • somer
        Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

        Yes that would have been mentioned in the judgement if there were some cognitive faculty issue.

  10. mordacious1
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Throw him in an active volcano. The gods must be appeased!!

    • busterggi
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      As an atheist I object to your appeasing the gods. I don’t object to the volcano part though.

      Just think, this guy can start killing other animals, maybe people too, by autumn.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 7, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

        I doubt whether the volcanic magma’s composition would be detectably affected by the addition of a tiny percentage of Gutierrez, so – no downside. Might as well chuck him in.



  11. Kevin
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    He needed to be given more mandatory community sponsored activities and all of them with working scientists, not just picking up trash on the side of the road. He should also have to volunteer at a local symphony or opera; backstage working on production and light or art design. He will see hard working people who get paid very little to do things they love…just like most researchers.

  12. BJ
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I’m OK with this sentence. I imagine he is a first-time offender, and I think 45 days in jail is appropriate when combined with the community service and his criminal record. A big part of me wishes he got more jail time, but I realize that’s coming from a place of anger, and not necessarily one of rationality.

    Also, I don’t agree with others that his community service should necessarily be centered around learning about animals and why they’re important. Community service should be unpleasant jobs that nobody else wants to do, and learning about animals just seems like too much fun 🙂

  13. Randy schenck
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I was not available for the earlier reports on this but believe these children got off light. There is a comparison to be made in the animal world with single individuals verses groups and their behavior. A pack of juvenile delinquents and a pack of dogs are a comparison that comes to mind. It is just a sad truth but shows that individualism has a long way to go in the human behavior.

  14. Charles Sawicki
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    The fine was far too small. It means nothing to a spoiled rich kid. It should have equaled the damage to the research project (about $200,000). The jail time was too short. Even if he is a psychopath, a year spent in a real prison might have made him afraid to repeat this sort of depraved behavior.

  15. Posted July 7, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I’ve a story. Read it or skip it, but it’s germane here.

    In 1973, I was 13 years old hanging out with a group of five other boys. We were goofing around a neighborhood pond and discovered that there were a lot of frogs in the pond, so of course we set about to catch some.

    For reasons that are now long lost, one of our crew decided to stuff a frog into a discarded beer bottle we found nearby. He then tossed the bottle into the pond. The frog could not get out. After it sank under, with the frog desperately trying to escape, things ramped up. In the end I think we killed about 15 or 20 frogs in various ways. I didn’t kill any but I also did nothing to stop it. In fact, I laughed and joined in the fun. Some other kids came by and, horrified at what we were doing, ran home and told their parents, one of whom ended up telling OUR parents. My father was not happy and I paid dearly for my role in it.

    A few days later I found Jimmy, the “leader” of our crew and a frog killer, smashing his bicycle with a hammer. He loved that bike. We rode our bikes everywhere and Jimmy was never without his. So I was dismayed and very alarmed to see him doing it. Later he confessed he was upset about the frogs but wasn’t sure if that was why he destroyed his bicycle.

    That school year we convinced our 6th grade science teacher to allow us to collect pollywogs (what we called tadpoles) and grow them into adulthood in our classroom as a science project. Many of them ultimately made it and we released probably 100 froglets into nearby streams and ponds. Maybe Jim and I thought this made up for what we did. I dunno.

    This story though, isn’t about cruelty, retribution, atonement or rehabilitation. It’s about the crazy dynamics that occur sometimes within groups of young people, especially boys (or in the Hawaiian case, young men). Something happens, things escalate and nobody is able to stop it, even though you know you must. I don’t really recall that day very well, but my feeling is that I although I stood by, in horror and did nothing, I think I was also swept up in the excitement. But I really don’t know why I did nothing.

    I once watched a documentary about a group of Chimpanzees. As they were idling their day away, the troop (is that what they’re called?) discovered a small snake. One reacted powerfully to it, shrieking and running about. Pretty soon the entire troop ramped up. Ultimately they went berserk and killed not only that snake but other animals they found nearby, including a monkey.

    All of the boys who tortured and killed those frogs so long ago, save one who died in car accident at 17, turned out not to be psychopaths. We were just naked apes who spotted a snake.

    I don’t know if Mr Gutierrez is a psychopath. I do know that it is easy, so very easy, to be swept up into a group dynamic that makes monsters of us.

    I hope when he gets out of jail he has a bicycle he can smash.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Sounds like the Lord of the Flies effect.

    • Posted July 7, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      I’ve gotten caught up in some really stupid, offensive stuff a time or two. That’s one reason this serious introvert spends so much time alone. That way I can think before doing things. (Not that I always do better on my own, unfortunately, but differently, anyway.)

    • ploubere
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Thanks for that story. It’s easy to forget how difficult the transition from child to adulthood can be, and how many bad decisions can be made in the process. It’s a relatively recent cultural change that allows adolescents as much freedom as they have in many modern societies. Perhaps they are given too much. But then, I enjoyed my freedom when I was that age.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 7, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Like you, I don’t know if Mr Gutierrez is a psychopath — and neither, apparently, does anyone else offering an opinion here. From what little I do know, the judge’s sentence hardly seems beyond the realm of the reasonable.

    • Posted July 11, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Once in high school, we were at a camp where frogs frequented the boys’ bathroom. Another peculiarity: the showers could be taken out and then reinserted. Some boys said that, when they spotted a frog jumping around while they were showering, they would take out a shower and use it to kill the frog. They never said why they felt like killing frogs. Some girls suggested that the boys actually wanted another thing (i.e. sex) but had no opportunity and their suppressed energy was seeking an outlet. I am not sure the explanation holds water, though.

      About the girls: many were nasty, but with words only. I have not suffered or witnessed physical aggression by girls after middle school.

  16. Posted July 7, 2017 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    The jail time is appropriate, but the fine is absurdly small, nowhere near proportional to the crime and its real financial effects. Furthermore, I doubt that any of these things will lead to rehabilitation. Even taking him at his word that peer pressure explains why he did it, there should be years of court-mandated therapy. I don’t see any other way to minimize his chance of reoffending.

    I disagree with the suggestion by some commenters that he should have to perform volunteer work for conservationist and/or wildlife research groups. There is no way I would trust him around animals. There is also no way I would trust him to do menial work either, like data entry. If he doesn’t care about the research or the animals to begin with, then why should anyone trust him to take care with them in a research setting now? This type of volunteer work would only be guaranteed to create a lot more work (and angst) for the researchers. It’s not their job to rehabilitate.

    Have him pick up trash on the highway or on the beach (while supervised).

  17. Posted July 7, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    I’m glad he got jail time. A short term in jail will get his attention (and that of the others) like nothing else can.

    I do agree that increasing the fine to cover costs of the study would have been good, if the law allows and this kid’s family actually is rich. That’s of less importance to me than the jail time.

    • Posted July 7, 2017 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Fines imposed by the court don’t go directly to the victims in the case; they go into the state’s crime victim’s fund – a fund which is distributed to all victims of crimes.

      IOW, the researchers could get some money out of that fund (they are victims of a crime) but the criminal fines paid by Mr Gutierrez will not be allocated to them. The researchers will have to go to civil court to re-coup the majority of costs.

  18. nicky
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I think he should have had a proper psychological assessment. He did not get that, so we still don’t know whether he is a psychopath.
    Let us assume he is not (indeed, I tend to think he’s not).
    If so, 45 days is too much, the fine too little and 200 hrs of community service ridiculously short. I’d have opted for no jail, a fine in line with the damage done and at least a year (or two) of community service.
    And yes, I think he should do that community service in a conservation/research setting. the only way to rehabilitate (if ‘rehabilitatable’) him. Yes, it is a burden on conservationists/researchers, but educating is part of their job, methinks.
    [I still hope for the best of possible outcomes, him becoming a staunch conservationist, and the same for his ‘under-age’ buddies]

  19. barn owl
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    I have no way to determine whether Gutierrez is a sociopath, but I do think that invoking class privilege to discuss this incident, and the punishment, is entirely appropriate. If that makes me a Cntrl-Leftist, then so be it.

    The fact that the Gutierrez and the others committed the crimes “while on a camping trip on Oahu” reeks of class privilege to me. They didn’t do this while on their way home from working at Sonic or at any other type of low wage job. The miscreants attended a prestigious and expensive private school, in a part of the US that has an extremely high cost of living. Many families in Hawaii scrape by just to afford rent for a cramped apartment. I think some of my fellow USAians are in denial about how class transcends ethnicity and gender, in terms of privilege. But acknowledging class as a component of privilege would limit the ability of some people to claim oppression, and it also runs counter to the view of many that the US is a classless society in which anyone can succeed, from a socioeconomic perspective. William Faulkner realized that class was an important determinant of social interactions and privilege in the American South many years ago (cf. Absolom, Absolom), and the concepts apply across the US.

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 8, 2017 at 4:14 am | Permalink

      My opinion also, though I couldn’t have stated it as well.

      This sort of “privilege,” IMO, is an older and different concept than what today’s Ctrl-left demonstrates against. And I don’t think it’s unique to the US. Although our current president is an excellent example of it.

  20. Posted July 7, 2017 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Having read now the details of what this depraved monster and his fellow monsters did, they should be executed.

  21. Mark R.
    Posted July 7, 2017 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been to modern jail 2007. dui. My judge was notorious for dui’s doing jail time. I spent a mere 48 hours. It fucking sucked…every second. My doctor has never asked what the jailers asked. Perhaps 45 days for this young idiot will suffice. dunno.

  22. Posted July 8, 2017 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

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