A man accused of fatally stabbing an employee outside the Ottobar last year was angry over the ejection of his friend from the establishment, a prosecutor said Wednesday during opening statements at the defendant's trial.
Nicholas Brandon Heath, 33, is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Tom Malenski, 35, at the Remington music club in September 2014.
Prosecutor Traci Robinson described how Heath stabbed Malenski and a second employee after they removed one of Heath's friends from the venue, and that Heath later confessed to the killing to police.
But Heath's attorney, Margaret Mead, said the charges against her client are too severe and urged jurors to listen to the entire case.
"He was very upset about what happened that night," Mead said. "This case does not match first- or second-degree murder in any way."
Police said Malenski had attended a concert earlier that night at the music club, at 2549 N. Howard St. Though it was Malenski's night off, he stepped in to help remove Heath's friend from the upstairs area of the bar, where Heath's friend had gotten into an argument with another patron that escalated, Robinson said.
After Malenski and a second Ottobar employee escorted Heath's friend from the bar, Robinson said, the two were walking back to the bar when Heath stabbed them.
Malenski was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he died of his wounds. The other employee was cut in the face, Robinson said.
Robinson described Malenski as a "lover of music" who worked multiple jobs to support his mother and grandmother, and had overcome an alcohol addition.
Robinson said Heath left the scene after the stabbing but was later arrested by police. During an interview with homicide detectives, she said, Heath confessed to the killing.
Mead described her client as a hardworking man, who took a job as a tattoo artist to pay for a lawyer to move his wife from England to the United States. She said he went to the bar that night with his friend to make connections with potential clients who might want tattoos.
Mead told jurors that the state's case presents one picture of the events but that the panel must examine the entire case. She said her client was remorseful and tried to defuse the situation.
Mead said her client had earlier in the night apologized to a group of patrons at the bar after his friend exchanged words with them, in an attempt to de-escalate the feud.
"That, ladies and gentlemen, was his intent," Mead said.