Joseph Bullock, 70, wanted no cats in his home. So in July, when his stepson and a roommate wanted to drop off their 9-month-old kitten at Mr. Bullock's home so that he could keep it for a while, Mr. Bullock objected.
Mr. Bullock's wife, Yvonne, told her son and his roommate to bring the cat to the house anyway.
When Mr. Bullock, a House of Delegates member in the 1960s, saw the cat, he became enraged, shoved his wife aside and lunged for his son's roommate, Townes Carter Coates. Mr. Bullock pushed Mr. Coates, 28, to the ground and choked him until he lost consciousness.
Mr. Bullock told an Owings Mills district judge he lost control and went after Mr. Coates because "he had a snicker and grin on his face that said to me, 'You're going to take the cat anyway.' "
No excuse, said Judge I. Marshall Seidler, who convicted Mr. Bullock of battery, a misdemeanor. Judge Seidler sentenced Mr. Bullock to two years in jail and a $2,500 fine but suspended the jail time and all but $300 of the fines, and placed him on three years' unsupervised probation. He also ordered Mr. Bullock to seek psychological help.
"Anyone who loses it at his age" could lose it again, Judge Seidler said. "He needs help, because the next time could be dangerous."
Mr. Coates said Mr. Bullock's insistence on keeping the kitten out of his Owings Mills apartment was unexpected. Mr. Coates, who lives with Mr. Bullock's son, John Wedekind, said the two men already had a cat and were afraid it might fight with the kitten if the two were left alone.
"He had just had knee surgery, and if I had wanted to hurt him I could easily have," said Mr. Coates, a Johns Hopkins University research program consultant. "But I didn't want to be the 28-year-old who hurt the senior citizen."
Mr. Coates said that he was happy with the sentence but that he would like Mr. Bullock to pay for his medical expenses, about $500.