An online petition urging New York University administrators to expel a student from Hawaii recently convicted for his part in the destruction of more than a dozen federally protected Laysan albatross and their nests at the Kaena Point Natural Reserve has garnered more than 28,000 signatures since it was posted on Thursday.
Christian Gutierrez, 19, pleaded no contest in state court in March to one count each of misdemeanor animal cruelty and theft, petty misdemeanor criminal property damage and of committing prohibited acts involving indigenous wildlife and in a natural area reserve. He was sentenced Thursday to 45 days in jail, one year of probation, a $1,000 fine and 200 hours of community service.
The petition, which was posted on the website change.org within hours of the sentencing and circulated via social media, was started by Timothy Pham, who is identified on his professional webpage as the former art director for Mauna Kea Galleries.
Pham did not immediately respond to requests for comment left on Saturday.
The petition emphasizes the alleged cruelty of the incident, which was reported in media accounts of Gutierrez’s trial: “They shot the docile birds with pellet guns, beat them with a bat, and hacked off their feet with a machete. They removed the feet to collect their ID bands as souvenirs and posted photos of the mutilated birds on social media. They also stole bird monitoring cameras, solar panels and a sound system.
“We believe the above mentioned violated NYU’s Codes of Conduct and (Gutierrez’s) mental health jeopardizes the health and safety of the University community,” the petition states. “We are demanding the expulsion of Christian Gutierrez immediately.”
The petition is directed to NYU President Andrew Hamilton and seven other NYU administrators. As of 8 p.m. tonight, it had been signed by 28,918 people, gaining 10,000 signatures in a single day.
Lindsay Young, executive director of the Pacific Rim Conservation Group, which conducts research in the area and which owned equipment that was damaged and stolen during the incident, said she did not support the initiative to have Gutierrez expelled.
“We feel that Mr. Gutierrez deserves the opportunity to resume his life once he is released from prison,” Lindsay said in a statement emailed to the Star-Advertiser. “Allowing him to continue his studies will be an important part of that process; we hope he is given that opportunity.”