ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY PRESS RELEASE
Case # 15HM07053
Date: July 16, 2015
NEWPORT BEACH – Two men were charged today with animal cruelty for cutting down tree which housed migratory and protected birds. Stephen John Esser, 47, Dana Point, and David Roger Stanley, 40, Downey, are each charged with one misdemeanor count of animal cruelty, one misdemeanor count of unlawful possession and destruction of bird nests/eggs, one misdemeanor count of unlawful taking of migratory nongame birds, and one misdemeanor count of harassing a bird or mammal. If convicted on all charges, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of one year and six months in jail. Esser and Stanley are out of custody and are expected to be arraigned on Aug. 28, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. in Department H-8, Harbor Justice Center, Newport Beach.
At the time of the crime, Esser and Stanley are accused of working for Tim Greenleaf Engineering. The defendants were tasked with cutting down a tree on private property adjacent to a sidewalk as part of a complete demolition.
At about 3:30 p.m. on May 28, 2015, Esser and Stanley are accused of using a backhoe-type excavation vehicle to cut down a ficus tree that was housing approximately eight or nine bird nests of snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons. The nests had nestlings, baby birds not yet ready to fly, and fledglings, baby birds learning how to fly. During that time, neighbors approached the defendants and pleaded with them not to cut down the tree and informed Esser and Stanley that the tree had migratory bird nests. The defendants are accused of proceeding to cut down the tree knowing there were birds living in the tree. About 12 nestlings began to fall out of the tree and five that fell to the ground did not survive. The adult birds managed to escape and flew away.
Bystanders called the police and reported the crime. The Newport Beach Police Department Animal Control Unit investigated this case.
The seven baby birds that survived were found amidst the rubble, placed in boxes and cages by the neighbors, and taken to Wetlands and Wildlife Center in Huntington Beach. After six weeks of care and rehabilitation, the baby birds were released back into the wild.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Malone of the Environmental Protection Unit is prosecuting this case.
TONY RACKAUCKAS, District Attorney
Susan Kang Schroeder, Chief of Staff