Prosecutor: Accused cat killer was jealous of girlfriend's affections

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NEW YORK -- A former minor league baseball player was "washed up" and had "zero income and no prospects" last year when he became jealous and killed his girlfriend's cat, a prosecutor said Monday.

Joseph Petcka, who pitched in the New York Mets' minor league system in 1992, was a "washed-up, never-made-it-to-the-big-leagues athlete" and a "D-minus" actor, prosecutor Leila Kermani told jurors during her closing argument.

Kermani has told jurors that Petcka brutally killed the neutered and declawed cat in a jealous fury after complaining that his then-girlfriend, Lisa Altobelli, loved the cat more than him.

Petcka testified Friday that he was defending himself after the 8-pound orange and white tabby named Norman bit his right hand and drew blood. The prosecutor say the cat's extensive injuries prove Petcka wasn't just defending himself.

Petcka's attorney, Charles Hochbaum, told jurors that deciding whether they believed the defendant was not enough; he said they should focus on whether the prosecution proved its case.

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

Petcka faces up to two years in prison if convicted of aggravated animal cruelty and harassment. The jury started deliberating Monday afternoon and will resume today.

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, a Sports Illustrated reporter, 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.

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

Petcka also appeared in a 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.

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