A lawyer convicted of breaking into a home and zapping a kitten in a microwave oven said he shouldn't be suspended from the practice of law because his actions were the result of alcoholism and depression triggered by his wife's leaving him and a close friend's death.
Stanley E. Protokowicz Jr., a partner in the Bel Air law firm of Miller, Fry, Protokowicz and Birch, told the state Court of Appeals yesterday that the kitten's death was accidental.
At least one of the seven judges on Maryland's highest court found that hard to believe. "I have a great deal of concern about someone who would put forth an outright and blatant lie before the court considering his suspension," said Judge John F. McAuliffe.
Richard M. Karceski, Protokowicz's lawyer, said, "I would rather think it's not a lie, that he did this because he was drunk. If he wasn't drunk, it wouldn't have happened."
Protokowicz pleaded guilty in Harford County Circuit Court Jan. 17 to breaking and entering and cruelty to animals in an Oct. 13 break-in at the home of Nancy Anderson Sanders, a friend's estranged wife.
Protokowicz admitted in court he was intoxicated the night he and his friend, Thomas Sanders, broke into Ms. Sanders' home. Protokowicz also testified he put the kitten in the microwave because it was underfoot, and that he accidentally turned on the microwave while looking for a stove light.
In a plea bargain, Protokowicz received a $1,500 fine, a 15-month suspended sentence, 18 months' probation, and was ordered to seek alcoholism counseling. Sanders was convicted on two counts of breaking and entering, including an Oct. 12 break-in at Ms. Sanders' home. Sanders received a two-year suspended jail sentence, 18 months' probation, 40 hours of community service and a $500 fine.
The Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission sought Protokowicz's suspension because of the breaking-and-entering conviction, said James Botluk, assistant bar counsel for the commission.
There is no time limit on how long the court can take to issue a decision, said Melvin Hirshman, commission bar counsel.
But Mr. Karceski urged the judges to consider Protokowicz's personal trauma.
"In a very short period of time, the respondent suffered a rapid series of personal difficulties, including the death of his childhood friend from cancer and the separation [from] his wife of almost 17 years," said Mr. Karceski in a written response to the commission's motion for suspension.