NYC Cat Killer: It Was Self Defense

By: AP
By: AP

(CBS/AP) A former professional baseball player maintains he was defending himself from an angry cat that had drawn his blood, but prosecutors say he beat the pet to death because his girlfriend loved the animal more than him.

Joseph Petcka's aggravated animal cruelty trial was in closing arguments Monday, with jury deliberations probably beginning later in the day. If the jurors find him guilty, the 37-year-old former athlete could face two years in prison.

The ex-baseball player testified Friday that he was defending himself after the 8-pound orange and white tabby named Norman bit his right hand and drew blood. He said Norman lunged at him with his paws outstretched and "his teeth were bared."

Petcka's lawyer, Charles Hochbaum, argued that the animal cruelty law applies only in cases where animals are intentionally tortured with a sadistic intent to injure or kill.

But Assistant District Attorney Leila Kermani says Petcka brutally killed the neutered and declawed cat in a jealous fury after complaining that ex-girlfriend Lisa Altobelli loved the cat more than she did him.

In her closing arguments today, Kermani took swipes at Petcka, calling him washed up "arm candy" who was jealous because his girlfriend was dumping him. She added that Petcka was "a washed-up, never-made-it-to-the-big-leagues athlete" and a "D-minus" actor, with "zero income and no prospects."

Petcka, a pitcher in the New York Mets' minor league system in 1992, later appeared in a Brawny paper towel commercial and had small roles in "Sex and the City" and other television shows. He more recently worked as a bartender and waiter.

Altobelli said she dated Petcka for about six weeks before he killed her cat. She said they quarreled after going out the evening of March 26, 2007, and he drank heavily.

Altobelli testified that Petcka woke her to complain Norman had bitten him. They argued and she went out, she said, and when she returned Petcka was gone and Norman was dead.

Petcka, "in a fit of anger and rage, beat a defenseless animal to death," Kermani told the jury in opening remarks last week. "The defendant killed Norman simply because he was an angry, jealous and drunken bully."

Hochbaum admits his client overreacted, but says: "This was a tragic accident. It was not intentional."

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