Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

Two men pleaded guilty and were immediately sentenced to 120 hours of community service for cutting down a tree in Newport Beach, causing the deaths of five newborn birds that are protected species.

Stephen John Esser, 47, of Dana Point and David Roger Stanley, 41, of Downey were also ordered to pay $14,000 in fines and restitution and placed on three years of informal probation, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

The two pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count each of unlawful possession and destruction of bird nests/eggs and unlawful taking of migratory nongame birds in Wednesday’s sentencing.

Esser and Stanley, who were working for Tim Greenleaf Engineering at the time, ignored the pleas of neighbors about migratory birds nests and chopped down a ficus tree last May 28, according to prosecutors.

There were about eight to nine nests of snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons in the tree, prosecutors said. About a dozen nestlings tumbled out of the tree, and five died.

Seven baby birds were rescued by neighbors and taken to the Westlands and Wildlife Center in Huntington Beach, where they were nursed back to health after six weeks.

–City News Service

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