Lawyer who microwaved kitten quits firm

June 14, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

A Bel Air lawyer, suspended from practicing law Tuesday by the Maryland Court of Appeals, has resigned from the firm where he'd been a partner for 10 years, a law partner said last week.

The lawyer, Stanley E. Protokowicz Jr., was suspended because of his conviction in January for breaking into a house and killing a kitten in a microwave oven.

Protokowicz left the firm, previously known as Miller, Fry, Protokowicz and Birch, on May 11 in what partner Max Miller called "a mutual termination."

Protokowicz was sentenced to 15 months in jail and fined $1,000 after pleading guilty last January to charges of breaking and entering and cruelly killing an animal. The jail term for each charge was suspended and he was placed on probation for 18 months.

The majority opinion for the Court of Appeals focused mainly on the breaking and entering conviction, said Melvin Hirshman, bar counsel for the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, which sought the suspension.

State law allows the Court of Appeals to suspend a lawyer if he or she is convicted of a crime carrying a jail penalty of three years or more.

Hirshman said Protokowicz could not have been suspended only for the cruelty to animals conviction because that crime carries a maximum jail penalty of up to 90 days and a fine of up to $1,000.

In a concurring opinion, Associate Judge John C. Eldridge said, "An attorney who engages in this particular type of conduct disclosed by the respondent's conviction of breaking and entering and by his admissions may well pose a danger to the public pending the completion of the disciplinary proceedings."

Hirshman would not say what other disciplinary actions the commission plans in Protokowicz's case. He said the possibilities include a disbarment, an indefinite suspension or a reprimand.

Protokowicz testified in court this winter that he and his roommate, Thomas Sanders, had been drinking heavily before they broke into the home of Sanders' estranged wife on Oct. 14, 1991. The two men, in separate court appearances, said the purpose of the visit was to retrieve stock certificates Sanders claimed belonged to him.

Protokowicz also testified that during the break-in, he consumed a bottle of champagne he found in the refrigerator and put the 7-month-old kitten in the microwave "to keep it from being underfoot."

Protokowicz testified he accidentally activated the microwave while the kitten was still inside. He said the animal was still breathing when the two men rescued it. The two men then fled the house.

According to a statement of facts read at Protokowicz's trial, the kitten was found dead on the kitchen floor in a puddle of champagne by Nancy Anderson Sanders when she and her two children returned home from vacation. Nancy Anderson Sanders, a written statement provided to the commission, said her veterinarian told her it would only have taken a few seconds in the microwave for the kitten's lungs to be damaged.

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