A Bel Air lawyer convicted of breaking into a home and zapping a kitten in a microwave oven has been suspended indefinitely from his profession, but he could reapply for permission to practice law again after one year, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
The Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission had sought to have the lawyer, Stanley E. Protokowicz Jr., disbarred.
In its opinion, the Court of Appeals said Mr. Protokowicz's actions, and the killing of the kitten, represented "outrageous behavior, a world apart from what this court, the profession and the public is entitled to expect from members of the bar."
But the court noted that a hearing judge did find that the actions were the result of Mr. Protokowicz's problems with alcohol, his emotional involvement in the divorce proceedings of a close friend, and his "otherwise unstable psychological state at the time due to the death of a dear friend," and his own impending divorce.
James Botluk, an attorney who represented the commission in the case, could not be reached for comment yesterday on the appeals court ruling.
But during arguments before the state's highest court in December, Mr. Botluk said the lawyer's explanation that the kitten died accidentally when the microwave was mistakenly activated was "a blatant fabrication" and said it marked "a pattern of malicious conduct."
Richard M. Karceski, the lawyer representing Mr. Protokowicz, said the indefinite suspension was "a just decision.
"But for the problems in his personal life and the alcohol," Mr. Karceski said, this was an isolated incident.
Mr. Protokowicz was convicted in January 1992 of breaking into the home of Nancy Anderson Sanders, the estranged wife of his close friend and former client, Thomas Sanders.
In testimony, the lawyer admitted the two men were intoxicated when they broke into the home Oct. 13, 1991, to look for stock certificates that were part of the Sanders' divorce case.
Mr. Protokowicz testified that during the break-in, he put the family's 7-month-old kitten, Max, in the microwave because it was underfoot. He testified that he accidentally activated the microwave, located atop the stove, while looking for the stove light.
Mr. Protokowicz pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of breaking and entering, and cruelty to animals in January 1992.
He received a 15-month suspended jail sentence and 18 months' probation, was fined $1,500 and was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service. Under a court order, he has sought treatment for alcoholism.
Mr. Sanders was convicted of breaking into the home on the 13th and a day earlier.
Mr. Sanders received a two-year suspended jail sentence and 18 months' probation, was fined $500 and was ordered to perform 40 hours of community service.