Case Snapshot
Case ID: 11246
Classification: Beating
Animal: cat
More cases in New York County, NY
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Abuse was retaliation against animal's bad behavior
Drugs or alcohol involved
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Prosecutor(s): Leila Kermani
Defense(s): Charles Hochbaum
Judge(s): Michael Obus

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Tuesday, Mar 27, 2007

County: New York

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Convicted
Case Images: 4 files available

Defendant/Suspect: Joseph P. Petcka

Case Updates: 9 update(s) available

A former Mets minor-leaguer was so jealous of his girlfriend's pet cat, Norman, that he shouted, "You love that cat more than me" during a drunken fight - then brutally beat the tabby to death, prosecutors said yesterday.

Joe Petcka - who was drafted by the Amazin's in 1992 before taking up acting and getting a bit part on "Sex and the City" - savaged the helpless animal two weeks ago in a downtown apartment, authorities said. The violence stunned even hardened animal welfare agents.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound bruiser allegedly punched the orange-and-white, 71/2-pound puss numerous times, leaving it with a cut lip, broken ribs, fractured teeth, a split tongue, torn lungs and blood in its chest cavity, said Robert Reisman, a veterinarian with the ASPCA.

"This pet's injuries reflect true, ugly violence," said Joseph Pentangelo, an ASPCA spokesman.

According to authorities, the trouble started on the night of March 27. After some drinking, Petcka, 36, and his girlfriend, Sports Illustrated reporter Lisa Altobelli, had a rip-roaring fight.

"You love that cat more than you love me," he shouted, before leaving the woman's Greenwich Street apartment.

He allegedly returned the next day when Altobelli wasn't there and launched his sick attack, officials said.

When Altobelli got home she found her beloved Norman's brutalized remains beneath her nightstand. She took the cat to an animal hospital, where vets determined that it suffered a lingering, agonizing death.

"Because of the chest trauma, there was difficulty breathing," Reisman said. "The cat died over a period of 15 minutes."

Petcka was charged yesterday with a felony count of aggravated cruelty to animals. He faces up to two years in prison, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office said.

Petcka's lawyer, Charles Hochbaum, defended the actor, claiming that it was Norman who was the aggressor.

"I can say what we believe happened," the attorney said. "The cat bit him, then any injuries to the cat were in response to being bit."

The Wisconsin native was a fifth-round draft pick for the Mets, and kicked around their farm system for a while but never made it to the majors.

In addition to his one-episode "Sex and the City" stint, he appeared in the Mel Gibson-Helen Hunt film "What Women Want," in which he played the character "Man on Street." He now works as a waiter and does some set design.

Case Updates

An actor and former minor league baseball player who killed his girlfriend's cat has pleaded guilty to aggravated cruelty to animals.

Joseph Petcka, 38, pleaded guilty Friday to the felony. He faces up to 500 hours of community service at his sentencing on March 2.

The plea by the former New York Mets minor leaguer removes the need for a second trial. His first ended with the jury deadlocked 11-1 for conviction.

Prosecutors said Petcka killed the 7-year-old cat named Norman in March 2007 in a drunken, jealous rage.

Petcka testified that he didn't mean to hurt the 8-pound (3 1/2-kilogram) tabby, but that he overreacted to the cat's biting him.

Petcka said outside court that he hopes to do the community service in a youth athletics program.
Source: International Herald Tribune - Dec 20, 2008
Update posted on Dec 20, 2008 - 8:20AM 
The lawyer for an actor and former minor league baseball player who killed his girlfriend's cat says he is trying to strike a plea deal with prosecutors so his client can avoid another trial.

Jurors deadlocked 11-1 last month after 37-year-old Joseph Petcka's trial on a charge of felony aggravated animal cruelty.

On Thursday, defense lawyer Charles Hochbaum told Manhattan Justice Michael Obus that he and prosecutors are "prepared to discuss resolving this case without the necessity of another trial."

Petcka testified that he didn't mean to hurt the 7-year-old, 8-pound tabby named Norman, but that he overreacted to the cat's biting him.

Prosecutors said he killed Norman in March 2007 in a drunken, jealous rage.
Source: Newsday - Oct 23, 2008
Update posted on Oct 24, 2008 - 2:03AM 
New York City prosecutors say they're considering a retrial for the former minor league pitcher and actor who killed his girlfriend's cat.

Manhattan jurors deadlocked 11-1 on Friday at the aggravated animal cruelty trial for Joseph Petcka.

Petcka says he didn't mean to hurt Norman the cat. He said he overreacted when the cat bit him.

The former Mets minor leaguer and "Sex in the City" actor said on NBC's "Today" show he's grateful for the lone juror who believed he didn't act intentionally.
Source: Associated Press - Set 29, 2008
Update posted on Sep 29, 2008 - 1:55PM 
The case of a former baseball player and actor accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's cat ended in a mistrial on Friday after jurors in the case said they could not reach a verdict.

After struggling for five days over the charge of aggravated animal cruelty, a 12-member jury at New York State Supreme Court jury couldn't decide whether ex-minor league baseball player killed his girl friend's pet in a fit of a drunken fury, or self defense.

Juror Doug Collman told reporters that after five days of deliberations jurors could not reach a verdict, so the judge ended the trial by declaring a hung jury. He said the vote had been 11 to 1 in favor of conviction on aggravated animal cruelty. One juror held out for an acquittal, he added.

Last week prosecutors charged Petcka, 37, with aggravated animal cruelty and harassment for brutally killing the neutered and declawed cat, named Norman.

They accused him of allegedly beating to death the 7-pound orange and white tabby in a drunken rage after an argument with his then-girlfriend Lisa Altobelli, who testified she had dated Petcka about six weeks before he killed her cat. Petcka complained that Altobelli loved the cat more than him.

On contrary, Petcka said Friday he killed the cat in self defense. The player/actor said he was defending himself after Norman bit his right hand on March 27, 2007. He testified that he kicked the cat and flung him into the air after being lunged at and bitten by the animal.

However, assistant District Attorney Leila Kermani contended last week that Petcka killed the cat out of jealousy, further explaining that the cat's extensive injuries prove Petcka wasn't just defending himself.

According to Kermani, the fatally beaten Norman died with broken teeth, broken ribs, a broken leg, a torn tongue, massive internal injuries including bruised lungs, a bruised liver and a chest cavity filled with blood.

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

The defense attorney, Charles Hochbaum, though admitted Petcka overreacted when he was attacked by the cat, but said his client did not intentionally kill the cat. "This was a tragic accident," Hochbaum said. "It was not intentional."

The judge ordered Petcka to appear in the court on October 23. Petcka, the player-turned- actor who once had a role in "Sex and the City," may face up to two years in prison if convicted for felony animal cruelty.
Source: The Money Times - Sept 28, 2008
Update posted on Sep 29, 2008 - 1:55PM 
Accused cat-killer Joseph Petcka Thursday admitted kicking and smacking his girlfriend's pet - but insisted he acted in self-defense.

Petcka claimed he told girlfriend Lisa Altobelli that the 7-pound tabby bit his hand and lunged at him as he dozed on the couch in her Tribeca pad.

"Norman just attacked me," said Petcka, 37, who demonstrated how he gently swatted the feline away. "I was, like, 'Hello, I've just been attacked by your cat.'"

Petcka said he washed his hands and stanched a cut on his hand, but the orange-and-white long hair attacked him again on March 27, 2007.

"Norman came and lunged at me, throwing me on my butt on the coffee table," Petcka said. "Norman was biting into my hand."

Responding to questions from his lawyer, Petcka admitted he kicked the cat "hard." He denied intending to hurt the cat, who he said hissed at him regularly.

Petcka, 37, who has appeared on "Sex and the City" and played minor league baseball for the Mets, faces up to two years in prison in the felony animal cruelty case. His claims clashed with a veterinarian who testified the cat was brutally beaten, then crawled into his favorite hiding spot to die.

Dr. Robert Reisman, the ASPCA's top animal cruelty investigator, said Norman died an agonizing death after possibly being whacked against a countertop

"The easiest way to cause those injuries would be to control the cat and hit its face on a hard surface," Reisman said. The animal doc said Norman's horrific injuries were similar to those caused when a pet tumbles out a window or gets hit by a car.

He compared the blows inflicted on the cat with a soccer kick and rejected Petcka's claim he "swatted" the cat in self-defense. "This is kicking it at a goal," Reisman said. "This was not pushing it away."

Norman suffered three broken ribs, a ripped lung and liver, chipped teeth and torn tongue.

He likely survived for up to 15 minutes following the initial attack, and could have dragged his crumpled body into a bedroom where he was found.

The cat died when blood filled his chest, Reisman said.

Altobelli testified Petcka despised Norman while they dated for several weeks. Petcka said he never got along with the tabby: "We kept our distance," he said.

Altobelli, a Sports Illustrated reporter, said she left her short-fused beau in her apartment after a nasty booze-fueled quarrel.

She later found her beloved cat lying dead in its favorite hiding spot beneath her bedside table.

"That's what cats do," Reisman said. "They hide."
Source: NY Daily News - Sept 18, 2008
Update posted on Sep 20, 2008 - 12:17AM 
According to the court website, Petcka is scheduled to appear before Judge Obus on March 20, 2008.
Update posted on Mar 2, 2008 - 8:59PM 
Letters have been pouring into the judge's chambers and the Manhattan DA's Office, all caterwauling against athlete-turned-TV actor Joseph Petcka and his "cat attacked me" defense.

The 36-year-old Brooklyn man who has appeared in "Sex and the City" was in court on Dec 14, turning down an offer of three months in jail on charges he beat his ex-girlfriend's cat, Norman, to death in her Greenwich Street apartment in March.

The hulking, 6-foot-3, 205-pound Petcka - a former Mets minor leaguer - is claiming self-defense.

"The cat attacked me when my hand was dangling," he told cops of the fluffy, 7 1/2-pound furball.

"I had to get him off me," he explained. "I swiped it away."

The blame-the-cat defense has infuriated animal lovers, who have been steadily calling and writing the trial judge - now Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus.

If you wish to contact the trial judge in this case, write to:

The Honorable Michael J. Obus
Supreme Court, New York County
100 Centre Street
New York, NY 10013
Phone: (212) 374-4784

Court Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (or later if court sessions are protracted - doors to the courtrooms are opened at 9:15 a.m.)
Source: NY Post - Dec 15, 2007
Update posted on Dec 19, 2007 - 3:09AM 
Court contact information for this case is as follows:

Manhattan Criminal Court
100 Centre Street
NY, NY 10013
Phone: 646-386-4500
Fax: 212-374-5293

Manhattan DA Office:
One Hogan Place
NY, NY 10013
Phone: 212-335-3630 (or 9400)
Fax: 212-335-9288

Court Date: November 1, 2007
Case Indictment # 2050 of 2007

The Honorable Leila Kermani
Manhattan DA Office:
One Hogan Place
NY, NY 10013
Phone: 212-335-3630 (or 9400)
Fax: 212-335-9288

The Honorable Michael Obus
Manhattan Criminal Court
100 Centre Street
NY, NY 10013
Phone: 646-386-4500
Fax: 212-374-5293

Tips for Effective Letter Writing:
Source: Manhattan Criminal Court
Update posted on Oct 6, 2007 - 9:09PM 
Joseph Petcka is scheduled to go on trial for felony animal cruelty on June 7 at 9:00 a.m.

According to reports, the former Mets minor-leaguer was so jealous of his girlfriend's cat, Norman, that he shouted, "You love that cat more than me" during a drunken fight.

He allegedly returned later and brutally beat the tabby to death.

"This pet's injuries reflect true, ugly violence," said Joseph Pentangelo, an ASPCA spokesman.
Source: Docket # 02050-2007 New York County
Update posted on May 15, 2007 - 7:08PM 


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