A New York judge has declared a hung jury at the trial of a former minor league baseball player and actor Joseph Petcka for his alleged beating, stomping and kicking his girlfriend’s cat to death during a drunken fury. The jury deliberated for five days on the charge of aggravated animal cruelty in the death of Norman.
His former girlfriend Sports Illustrated reporter Lisa Altobelli insists that it was intentional while Petcka insists that it was an accident.
Prosecutors alleged that Petcka killed Norman after arguing with Altobelli (who left the apartment around 3 .am.). He had allegedly woke up Altobelli to tell her that Norman had tried to bite him.
Norman was found later with a variety of severe injuries from broken teeth to broken ribs to a broken leg to a torn tongue. There was also massive internal injuries and a chest cavity filled with blood.
He had been drinking heavily on that night of March 27, 2007.
His lawyer insists that, when the cat tried to swat him, he hit the cat but did not intend to kill. He further complains that, absent the high publicity, the case would have been pleaded out without a significant sentence. His client now faces up to two years.
Altobelli told police that Petcka had previously complained: “You love that cat more than you love me.”
We discuss these cases in my torts class. The killing of pets is tragically common after break-ups or fights among couples. Such cases can result in lawsuits for intentional infliction of emotional distress as well as criminal charges. Indeed, it will be interesting to see if Altobelli sues. However, Petcka appears to have little in terms of assets. While he did act in a few episodes of shows like Sex in the City, he is currently working as a bartender. Certainly a job at Petco for Petcka appears unlikely.
It is unclear whether the prosecutors will re-try the case, though even a prosecution (let alone a re-trial) remains a rarity in such cases. They are, however, considering a re-trial. What does seem certain is that Petcka will have trouble “getting lunch in this town” again after the trial. It appears that he will be fortunate to keep his bartender job after all of the bad press.
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