Today’s news:

New Hyde Park judge takes insanity plea

A Nassau County Court judge who had been charged with stabbing his wife two years ago during a domestic dispute, stepped down from the bench and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, the Queens district attorney said.

Judge Paul Kowtna, 53, of New Hyde Park, L.I. was indicted July 5, 2000 on six counts of assault, criminal possession of a weapon and menacing for allegedly stabbing his wife twice in the back with a large kitchen knife during an argument on May 18, 2000, according to the DA.

“An independent examination by a board-certified psychiatrist has determined that at the time of the commission of the crime the defendant was suffering from a mental defect,” Queens DA Richard Brown said.

As part of his insanity plea last Thursday before Westchester Court Judge Joseph West, Kowtna resigned from the bench and agreed to undergo further examinations by two psychiatrists appointed by the state Department of Mental Health as required by state law, Brown said.

The state-appointed doctors will determine Kowtna’s present mental health and conclude whether he was mentally ill or suffering from a dangerous mental disorder at the time of the assault.

The case was adjourned until April 5. If Kowtna is deemed to have been sane at the time of the attack and is convicted of intentional assault, he could face up to 25 years in jail.

Brown was appointed as special prosecutor in the case by Administrative Judge Edward McCabe of the 10th Judicial District on the day of the arrest to prevent a conflict of interest in his home county of Nassau. West also was appointed to hear the case to prevent a conflict of interest.

Nassau County Police said officers responded to a 911 call placed by Kowtna after the heated argument with his wife, Mary Gail Kowtna, 47, at the couple’s Long Island home. According to the indictment, Kowtna stabbed his wife twice in the back with a large kitchen knife.

Kowtna was arrested at the scene at 8:30 a.m. and his wife was taken to North Shore University Hospital at Manhasset with injuries to her back. The judge was taken to Nassau County Medical Center for evaluation.

Mary Gail Kowtna, who suffered a collapsed left lung and other minor injuries, was hospitalized for four days and released, the DA’s office said.

Kowtna, a former Nassau County prosecutor, was elected to a 10-year term as a county judge in 1994. He had been placed on administrative leave from his position as a Nassau County Court judge with pay of $137,000 per year. He has been free on $15,000 bail and his wife, who has remained with her husband, has declined to file a complaint.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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