Seated in the smoking section of a Timonium restaurant, Debra Jane Lowenstein was not amused when a stranger from another table in the same section walked over and asked her to put out her cigarette.
She said she refused and was even less amused when he struck her on the head three times, shouting "Heal!" like a television evangelist, while his companion tied her legs to her chair.
The result was a criminal assault charge against a 47-year-old Towson attorney with a long and colorful history, including an 18-month suspension for fee-gouging.
Ms. Lowenstein, 40, of Randallstown, filed criminal charges against the lawyer, Abraham Paul Korotki, shortly after the 10:15 p.m. incident Saturday at Michael's, a restaurant at 2119 York Road.
Ms. Lowenstein told police that she and two friends were having dinner in the smoking section when Mr. Korotki came over and asked them to stop smoking because it was bothering someone at his nearby table.
The women said they explained that they had waited 45 minutes for a smoking table so that two of them -- Ms. Lowenstein and Pamela Lee Osborne -- could smoke. They refused to stop.
According to Ms. Lowenstein's account to police, Mr. Korotki grabbed her by the back of her neck with one hand, then struck her several times in the forehead with the other hand, while yelling, "Heal!"
"He hit her three times in the head," said Donna Jo May, 40, a friend of Ms. Lowenstein's who was at the table but not smoking. "They [Mr. Korotki's friends] were all laughing. They thought it was funny."
And while that was going on, Ms. May said in an interview yesterday, one of Mr. Korotki's companions tied Ms. Lowenstein's legs to her chair with string.
Ms. Lowenstein and her friends immediately called police.
Said Ms. May, "It happened real fast. It was like, one-two-three and it was over. . . . I think she was more stunned than surprised. It was so unreal that somebody would do that."
She said Mr. Korotki made a comment about them being "three beautiful ladies" and implored Ms. Lowenstein and Ms. Osborne to stop smoking because they were "killing" their friend, Ms. May, with their second-hand smoke.
"I'm all for nonsmoking, because I don't smoke," said Ms. May. "But if you sit in a smoking section, you should understand that people will smoke."
"He really hurt her," Ms. May continued. "She'd had neck surgery. It hasn't been even six months ago."
Ms. Lowenstein, reached by telephone, was reluctant to discuss the incident, saying she would let the court system take care of her complaint against Mr. Korotki.
She did say she spent 5 1/2 hours at Greater Baltimore Medical Center after the episode, and is now wearing a neck brace and going to physical therapy.
Mr. Korotki, who lives in the 11900 block of Park Heights Ave. in Owings Mills, could not be reached for comment. The phone number he gave police is for his former Towson law practice. An answering machine on that line plays a message referring callers to the phone of another Towson lawyer, Jack L. Hanson Jr., who said he is taking calls for Mr. Korotki's former law practice.
Over the years, Mr. Korotki has been in a number of well-publicized legal battles, the most recent of which got him an 18-month suspension from practice for fee-gouging in 1990.
Mr. Korotki was representing five city firefighters who were badly injured fighting a chemical fire. He initially said he would represent them for a 40 percent cut of whatever they won in court, a rate he eventually raised to 75 percent.
That meant of a $628,000 settlement, Mr. Korotki claimed a fee of $488,000.
The state's highest court, in suspending Mr. Korotki for 18 months, called it "a particularly aggravated case of greed overriding professionalism." He was reinstated in October 1991.
A District Court commissioner has issued a criminal summons for Mr. Korotki, charging him with assault and setting a trial date for June 9 in Towson District Court.