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D.C. tattoo shop owner gets 8 years in husband's killing

Kristin Kozak, a muralist and painter with a tattoo parlor in Washington, attended college on an art scholarship but dropped out as a freshman.
Kristin Kozak, a muralist and painter with a tattoo parlor in Washington, attended college on an art scholarship but dropped out as a freshman. (Family Photo - )
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 17, 2010

The owner of a popular Southeast Washington tattoo shop was sentenced to eight years in prison on Thursday for last year's fatal shooting of her husband.

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In preparing for the sentencing hearing, a court-appointed psychiatrist wrote that Kristin R. Kozak was suffering from battered spouse syndrome on Aug. 10, 2009, when she shot her husband, Michael Burnette-Bey, 56, twice in the back and head.

After the shooting, Kozak called police and said she had shot her husband during a fight and that she was protecting herself.

Kozak, 36, and Burnette-Bey had been married 16 months and lived in a two-bedroom apartment above the Liquidity Jones Tattoo and Piercing shop in the 1500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE. The couple opened the shop in 2008.

Thursday's sentencing hearing was emotional, as Kozak's family filled one row of the courtroom and Burnette-Bey's family, many of them wearing pins displaying his picture, filled others.

In June, federal prosecutors angered Burnette-Bey's family when they accepted a plea deal and agreed to a seven- to eight-year sentence. During the hearing, Karen Denise Johnson, Burnette-Bey's niece, tearfully told Judge Lynn Leibovitz that if Kozak feared for her life, she should have left the apartment instead of shooting her uncle.

"The door was next to the closet where she got the gun," Johnson said. "He didn't deserve to die as a result of his wife's psychotic behavior. He didn't deserve to die like an animal."

Kozak has a troubled past, and her husband's death was not her first involvement in a killing.

In 2005, Kozak and a boyfriend spent a week smoking crack cocaine in an Alexandria motel room with a prominent, Harvard-educated federal lawyer. At some point, Kozak, boyfriend Dana E. Moro and Securities and Exchange attorney Eric N. Miller got into a fight. Police say Moro beat Miller to death with a lead pipe as Kozak watched. She and Moro continued to smoke crack as Miller bled to death. Kozak, according to Virginia authorities, helped Moro drive a rental car containing Miller's body to Southeast Washington and set it on fire.

Kozak was a prosecution witness at Moro's trial. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison. Kozak was not charged but was ordered into drug rehabilitation. Authorities said she had crack in her system the night she shot her husband.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Cobb defended the plea deal, saying Burnette-Bey's past -- which included domestic abuse (including two complaints by Kozak) armed robbery, drug abuse and theft -- could have swayed a jury in Kozak's favor. And that could have meant acquittal had the case gone to trial, Cobb said.

"I wanted her to have life in prison. But will the family receive any closure if a jury is hung once or twice?" Cobb said. "The disposition may not be what the family wanted, but at least she accepted responsibility."

During her brief comments to the judge, Kozak said she grieved for her husband, whom she referred to as her "pride and joy."

"I am shattered and broken. My husband is gone," Kozak said, her wrists and legs shackled. "I still wake up at night thinking he is going to come through the door or call me. I will always regret it."

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