Drew Peterson case inspires proposed bill to strip pensions from convicted felons

Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville

Rep. Darlene Senger

A new bill currently making its way through the General Assembly could make it a lot easier for the Bolingbrook Police Pension Board to take away the pension of convicted murderer, Drew Peterson.

Proposed Illinois House Bill 5816 would let pension boards consider some new criteria with regards to dispersal of pension benefits.  The bill which was introduced last month would let boards consider official misconduct and felony convictions grounds for forfeiture.

It says if you have been convicted or pleaded guilty to corruption charges, then the board can withhold your pension,” said 41st District Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville, the bill’s sponsor.

But, more pertinent to the Drew Peterson situation, the bill would also make a felony grounds for possible forfeiture, stating:

..if a member or participant of a pension fund or retirement system established under the Code is receiving an annuity or pension from a pension fund or retirement system established under the Code and is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, a felony…then the board of trustees of that fund or system shall suspend the payment of that annuity or pension during that individual’s incarceration for that offense.

In Peterson’s case, that would be 38 years.

The Naperville Sun reports that Senger’s motivation for the bill arose from the current Drew Peterson situation. The Bolingbrook board voted last week to hold hearings to decide whether they should put an end to Peterson’s benefits, something that may be difficult to do under current law which is protective of civil employees.

There is another part to the proposed legislation, however, that could allow Peterson to continue collecting his annual $79k payout. It would allow pension boards leeway when the beneficiary of the pension is a child.  That part of the bill has not yet gone to a vote.

Currently, Peterson’s adult son, Stephen, is receiving his father’s pension benefits and has custodial care of his father’s two minor children. Their mother is Stacy Peterson who has been missing since October 2007. Drew Peterson is the only named suspect in connection to her disappearance and Stephen lost his job when he failed to tell his superiors about accepting guns and money from his father immediately after Stacy went missing.

Peterson’s attorneys have filed an appeal of his murder conviction and it is expected to be argued in appellate court some time in the Fall of this year.

Also, in “this is starting to feel like a prolonged case of déjà vu” news, the Illinois Supreme Court has denied Stephen Peterson’s request to appeal the Appellate Court decision that upheld the Village of Oak Brook’s decision to terminate him from his position with the Police Department.

I guess he’ll have to seek solace by buying more Blackhawks tickets with his dad’s pension benefits…
steve-peterson-hawks

From the March Illinois Supreme Court Docket:

117194 Stephen Peterson, petitioner, v. Village of Oak Brook, etc., et al., respondents.
Leave to appeal, Appellate Court, Second District.

Sources:
Illinois House Bill 5816 text
Illinois House Bill 5816 Summary
Naperville Sun
My Suburban Life

A mugshot history of Drew Peterson

many-mugs-of-drew
Just for the hell of it, here is a compendium of Drew Peterson’s mugshots over time. Click the link or the image above to see it full size.

The first mugshot is from his 2008 arrest on gun charges (later dropped). The second is from his 2009 arrest for murder. Peterson remained in detention from his arrest until his trial in 2012.

The last mugshot is a new one from the Illinois Department of Corrections. Peterson is currently housed at the Menard Correctional Center where he is serving a 38-year sentence for the 2004 murder of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. He has filed an appeal of the conviction.

Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy (Cales) Peterson, has been missing since October 2007.

Attorney hired by Bolingbrook recommends going after Drew Peterson’s pension

Drew Peterson Mugshot as of January 2014
Today the Chicago Tribune reported that after a 9-month review, attorney Charles Atwell sent a letter to the Bolingbrook Police Pension Fund stating his opinion that there is enough evidence to challenge Drew Peterson’s $79k yearly pension.

Atwell, a public pension expert, was hired in March of last year to study the transcripts of Peterson’s trial for the murder of ex-wife, Kathleen Savio, and to determine if the convicted man had used the knowledge and skills gained as a police officer in the killing.

Under Illinois law, if challenged Drew Peterson would have the right to a public hearing which would be somewhat like a trial, in that the hearing would be public, board members would testify, and Peterson could call witnesses in his defense. He would also have the right to attend the hearing.

While serving his 38-year sentence for murder at the Menard Correctional Center, Peterson’s pension checks have been given over to his adult son, Stephen, who allegedly has been using the funds to raise Lacy and Anthony Peterson, the young children of Stacy (Cales) Peterson, who went missing in the Fall of 2007 and is presumed dead (at the hands of her husband).

Stephen Peterson lost his job as a police officer for the Village of Oak Brook in 2011 when it was determined that he used poor judgement and obstructed an investigation when he agreed to receive money and guns from his father in the days after Stacy Peterson went missing.

Bolingbrook Police Pension Board attorney Richard Reimer says, “The pension board will schedule a special meeting to decide whether or not to pursue that hearing. Reimer expects that to occur in “the next couple of weeks.” He also indicated that if the hearing does occur, Peterson will most likely attend via video-conference, rather than being transported to Bolingbrook.

Peterson’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, has pooh-poohed the idea of his client losing his pension, stating, “There is absolutely no basis in law or fact. This is simply the flavor de jour to pile on Drew. At some point, I hope, they will start applying the same laws that apply to everyone else to Drew Peterson, and make it a fair fight.

Kathleen Savio’s sister told the Tribune, “As a police officer, you’re supposed to serve and protect. He didn’t protect. He used his law-enforcement skills and knowledge to go out and murder my sister. If you do the crime, you should pay the full price. There shouldn’t be any exceptions.

Meanwhile Naperville pastor, Neil Schori, who testified at Peterson’s murder trial to incriminating statements told to him by Stacy Peterson, is afraid that Stacy’s children would suffer if their father was stripped of his pension. He tweeted:

In other news, Joel Brodsky appears to have abandoned his defamation lawsuit against former co-counsel, Steve Grenberg, Stacy St. Clair (Chicago Tribune), and Joe Hosey (AOL Patch). Back in September Greenberg tweeted that Brodsky had to withdraw the complaint because of errors in the filing. Joel Brodsky says that he has dropped the suit for now because of the ill health of the attorney representing him. The complaint was filed by Walter Maksym, who was reprimanded in 2011 for filing a bizarre and nonsensical brief.

Read it here: Drew Peterson’s appeal of murder conviction

ARGUMENTS

I. DREW WAS DENIED A FAIR TRIAL WHEN ATTORNEY HARRY SMITH TESTIFIED ABOUT A PRIVILEGED CONVERSATION WITH STACY THAT HAD BEEN RULED INADMISSIBLE, AND WAS HEARSAY OPINION INSINUATING DREW WAS GUILTY OF MURDER.

II. DREW’S PRINCIPAL ATTORNEY, BY SIGNING A MEDIA RIGHTS CONTRACT WHEN RETAINED, CREATED A PER SE CONFLICT.

III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED AS A MATTER OF LAW IN ADMITTING PASTOR SCHORI’S TESTIMONY, BOTH AT THE FORFEITURE BY WRONGDOING HEARING AND AT TRIAL, IN CONTRAVENTION OF THE CLERGY PRIVILEGE DOCTRINE.

IV. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN ADMITTING INTO EVIDENCE, VIA THE FORFEITURE BY WRONGDOING DOCTRINE, HEARSAY STATEMENTS THAT THE COURT HAD PREVIOUSLY FOUND UNRELIABLE.

V. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION IN ADMITTING JEFFREY PACHTER’S TESTIMONY BECAUSE THE STATE FAILED TO PROVIDE PROPER NOTICE OF THE TESTIMONY UNDER RULE 404(b), WHICH WAS PREJUDICIAL PROPENSITY EVIDENCE.

VI. DREW WAS NOT PROVED GUILTY BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT

VII. THE CUMULATIVE ERRORS DENIED DEFENDANT HIS RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL AND CAST DOUBT UPON THE INTEGRITY OF THIS PROCEEDING.

See the comments thread for more information.

Drew Peterson appeal of murder conviction to be filed soon

UPDATE: 1/13/14: Steven Greenberg reports that he has mailed the appeal.
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Drew Peterson’s attorneys have until January 14, 2014 to file an appeal of his conviction for the murder of Kathleen Savio.

Although limited to 50 pages, they have been asking permission to submit something more along the lines of a novella – 175 pages: 50 pages outlining the facts of the case and another 125 pages of arguments. Apparently they feel that the publicity garnered by the case merits a more verbose appeal. Or perhaps the inflated egos of Peterson’s battling counselors require bloated prose. Whatever the case, the third district appellate court has again shot down the request and they will be obliged to stick to the limit.

Peterson’s appeal is set to be filed within the next three weeks but the oral arguments for and against are not expected to be heard until late 2014.

Attorney Steven Greenberg says that the appeal will focus on hearsay evidence which was admitted to trial and on allegations of ineffective counsel. Motions filed after Peterson’s conviction and prior to his sentencing asked for a re-trial on the same grounds but were denied by Judge Edward Burmila.

Sources:
Chicago Tribune
ABC 7

Thoughts on Stacy Peterson: Six years gone

Stacy Peterson, missing since 2007

Today is the anniversary of Stacy Peterson’s disappearance. In observance I am re-running a blog post from a year ago. Stacy Peterson is still much in the thoughts of those who knew her and they are still seeking answers about her whereabouts. If you have any information that can help this ongoing investigation, please contact the Illinois State Police.

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Stacy Peterson was last heard from six years ago, today. On a lazy Sunday morning, she texted a friend that she wasn’t ready to get out of bed and go help with some painting and then…silence. No more texts, no phone calls, no email, no sightings of her since that moment.

Her sister, Cassandra Cales, had been with her the night before and was already nervous about Stacy’s well-being. She knew that Stacy wanted to divorce her police officer husband, Drew, but that she was afraid he wouldn’t let her go. Her neighbor, Sharon Bychowski, had seen her sitting on the curb and crying in the days prior to her disappearance and had been told that she thought she would not make it out alive. She had confided a terrible secret to at least three people in the weeks before–that her husband had killed his third wife and that she had provided him with an alibi.

Stacy thought that this information might buy her and her children an escape from Drew, but it may well have cost her her life instead.

During Drew Peterson’s murder trial I received a lot of emails from people–really great emails for the most part filled with support for this site as well as the Savios, the Cales, and the prosecutors. Of course there were a few nutty negative emails as well, but those were expected.

But beyond that, there were also a few troubling emails. These came from people who, although they believed Peterson was guilty of killing Kathleen Savio, had difficulty accepting the idea that Stacy knew about her murder but did nothing about it until three years later when she wanted out of her marriage. These emails were from the nicest people you could imagine, who believed that Peterson killed not only Kathleen but Stacy as well, and they asked about this facet of the case tentatively, obviously not comfortable sharing their thoughts in the comments sections of the blog.

One woman, hoping that someone might have the answer just asked:

“I hope you can answer a question for me. After Neil Schori’s testimony yesterday, I have to wonder why Stacy Peterson waited until August of 2007 to tell her secret? That’s almost 3 1/2 years after Kathleen’s death. Why did Stacy wait so long to speak up?”

Another person took a few paragraphs to get to the point and then finally came out with it:

“Shame on Stacy. I don’t think she had one ounce of self-esteem and had no way of knowing right from wrong…She raised Kathleen’s son’s knowing their dad killed her. That’s messed up.”

It’s true that Stacy was not always kind to Kathleen during the first part of their relationship and that she later kept Drew’s dark secret for three years. However, she was only a teenager when they met and was no doubt under a good deal of control by Drew, so I factor that in when I think about her behavior towards Kathleen. I admit with some discomfort that I do find Stacy culpable to a degree for protecting Drew and providing him with an alibi.

That said, I guess I don’t dwell on it or feel anger towards her at this point because although I learned those facts of the case very early on, they were so eclipsed by the transgressions of Peterson himself.

In our country you have the right to be tried for your crimes and judged by a jury of your peers. Stacy Peterson was robbed of that right while her husband received the full benefit of the legal system. In my opinion, Drew Peterson was Stacy’s self-appointed judge, jury and executioner and he meted out a death sentence not as a matter of justice, but in order to hide a crime of his own. I think someday it will be proven in court that he killed her out of cowardice and greed. No matter what she might have been charged with, the sentence would not have been to be murdered at the hands of someone who had sworn to love and protect her.

I never think “shame on Stacy” because she never benefited from her right to representation and never got a fair day in court. She was abruptly silenced and denied the chance to either explain her actions or to defend herself against the slanderous accusations that have been made by Peterson and his lawyers since her disappearance.

It’s especially galling when you think about the fact that while Drew Peterson has now been convicted of the murder of Kathleen Savio, he still has parental rights over Stacy’s children and can legally keep her family from spending time with them.

Even if you feel that Stacy Peterson deserved punitive measures for not speaking up about the murder sooner, I don’t think there are many who would say that she hasn’t paid the price ten times over and then some.

She didn’t deserve to be killed and her children didn’t deserve to be robbed of their mother.

I try to take my cue from the Savio family who have found it in their hearts to put aside any resentment and have stood by the Cales to work towards getting justice for both Stacy and Kathleen. If the only people in the world who have a legitimate reason to be angry have demonstrated that they can get over it, so can you.

And of course there’s only one appropriate question to ask today: Where is Stacy?

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Drew Peterson Update: Gossip, Rumors and Innuendo

It’s been a while since there’s been any big news to report about the Peterson cases but that doesn’t mean nothing has been going on recently.

This summer there have been a few filings in the Savio’s wrongful death suit against Drew. Attorneys will be back in court on September 26 for Judge Power’s decision on the Savio’s motion for a summary judgement.

In August, prosecutors filed a motion requesting that Steve Greenberg step down from Peterson’s appellate team, claiming that the libel suit brought against Greenberg by Peterson’s ex-counsel, Joel Brodsky, created a conflict of interest for Greenberg. At the time of the filing Greenberg called the claim “absurd”.

Yesterday, Greenberg tweeted that Brodsky had withdrawn the libel complaint because he “didn’t comply with the rules (no surprise) and didn’t state a cause of action”. Greenberg went on to tweet that Brodsky has said he is going to re-file but needs to find an attorney to represent him.

brodsky-drew-kissMeanwhile, Joel Brodsky has shared the contents of some of his letters from Drew Peterson with a local Fox affiliate. He claims to have received nine letters from Peterson and made public a few excerpts from letters he received in March and April (Peterson began his prison sentence in February). The excerpts were complaints about the discomfort of prison life, and worries for his safety. This is consistent with the kind of letters Peterson wrote while in jail while awaiting trial, which he sent to the Sun-Times and other media outlets.

While public response to Peterson’s complaints has been overwhelmingly negative, his defense team questions Joel Brodsky’s decision to share any of the correspondence which was labelled as “legal mail” on the envelopes. In a Facebook comment, Steve Greenberg wrote, “Communications r fine. But keep em private. Don’t read them to a reporter” and Brodsky’s former law partner, Reem Odeh, wrote, “Are you serious? It’s all about integrity and the best interest of your client, respect for the law, justice system and integrity of your practice.”

Attorney Reem Odeh

Attorney Reem Odeh

Speaking of Reem Odeh, has Joel Brodsky really taken to Twitter to insinuate that she has ties to Nidal Hasad, the Fort Hood shooter? “Did you know that Hasan comes from the same village in West Bank as Reem Odeh, the former Drew Peterson atty. Distant cousins” he tweeted. “Odeh’s mother went to Hasan’s mothers home on the day of the shootings to express her sympathy and support. I was shocked.”

As for Peterson, it would appear that he has begun to adjust better to prison life since those April letters. More recently, his correspondents have been reporting that Peterson has started to make use of his popularity as a pen-pal to help out his fellow prisoners by sharing lists of inmates who would like pen-pals and to inquire about correspondence courses.

Cassandra Cales

Cassandra Cales

Lastly, rumor has it that Cassandra Cales, sister of missing Stacy Peterson, has just returned from New York, where she consulted a celebrity medium, possibly to be aired as part of a reality show on TLC.

An appeal of Drew Peterson’s conviction is expected to be filed within the next 30 days.

Three of Drew Peterson’s old attorneys return to his defense – Joel Brodsky calls them a pathological narcissist, an alcoholic, and a novice

The Chicago Tribune reports that attorneys Steve Greenberg, John Heiderscheidt and David Peilet have been rehired to try to overturn Drew Peterson’s murder conviction for the killing of his ex-wife, Kathleen Savio.

The three lawyers turned his appellate case over to the state defender’s office last March but Peterson has now decided he wants the help of his old team. attorney Steve Greenberg says,

After the case was over, he needed to think about what he wanted to do. We needed to let things calm down before making those decisions.

The appeal, which is expected to be filed within the next 90 days, will be based on the admission of hearsay, the admission of testimony by Stacy Peterson’s pastor, a jury pool left in limbo for over two years and the ineffective counsel of Peterson’s lead attorney, Joel Brodsky. Brodsky responded to the news last night in an acerbic Tweet:

joel-comment

The Tribune reports that Peterson is biding his time at Menard Correctional Center, in protective custody. He has no cellmate and no job there. He gets five hours of recreation time each week and is allowed to see visitors twice a month.

Since his sentencing, Peterson’s yearly police pension of almost $80k has been challenged by Bolingbrook Village officials. It may take months before the outside attorney hired by the pension board makes a recommendation.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune

Drew Peterson asks to put wrongful death suit on hold

Kathleen Savio and sons / Henry Savio and Anna Doman

Katleen Savio and sons / Henry Savio and Anna Doman


UPDATE 6/13/2013:
Attorney Edmund Boland who is representing Peterson’s Uncle, James Carroll, was in court today. The hearing was rescheduled for August 15th.
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The attorney representing Drew Peterson in the Savio’s wrongful death suit has filed a motion asking to delay the case “…pending the outcome of Mr. Peterson’s appellate case.” The filing also asks that a motion for summary judgment to be denied.

Henry Savio and Anna Doman filed the civil case against Drew Peterson in April 2009, but for the most part it has been in limbo since Peterson was arrested in May 2009 for the murder of Kathleen Savio.

During the long wait to trial, both of Kathleen Savio’s sons who were named in the law suit reached the age of eighteen and removed themselves from the complaint.

John Heiderscheidt’s filing takes some jabs at Peterson’s former lead counsel, Joel Brodsky, saying that the lawyer’s so-called White Noise strategy of media saturation “obliterat(ed) Peterson’s public image.” He cites an interview Joel Brodsky gave to WGN news, in which the lawyer agreed with Judge Burmila’s assertion that Brodsky was under-qualified to defend the high-profile murder defendant.

The filing also points out that the original investigation into Kathleen Savio’s death deemed her death an accident and alleges that the admission of hearsay into Peterson’s trial was unwarranted.

Fourth Amended Complaint – Wrongful Death of Kathleen Savio:

Tom Peterson’s release of Drew Peterson and James Carrol from civil suit:

Read more at:
Bolingbrook Patch
Herald News

Joel Brodsky booted from case after clashes with yet another attorney

The Chicago Tribune reports that Joel Brodsky and his opposing counsel, Michael Meschino, were both dismissed from a Cook County civil case by Judge Raymond Mitchell.

Joel Brodsky was representing Fahred Salem, Mariam Salem and Jrough Al-Daoud in a civil case against Rabi Nesheiwat and George Nesheiwat. After months of open animosity both in and out of court, the Judge filed an opinion and order booting the two lawyers as a last resort to ensure all parties’ right to a fair trial.

Besides relatively tame allegations of name calling by both lawyers – including “little man”, “fat”, “bald”, and “short” as well as the Brodsky favorites, “moron” and “liar” – there were allegations of physical threats and Mr. Meschino had to be escorted from the courtroom more than once by deputies.

Joel Brodsky filed a motion on Tuesday in which he claimed that Attorney Meschino was obsessed with Brodsky’s role in the high-profile Drew Peterson murder case, and recommended that Meschino undergo a mental evaluation. In Joel Brodsky’s pending defamation suit filed in February, he makes similar assertions of mental illness about ex co-counsel, Steven Greenberg.

In the motion Judge Mitchell says that Brodsky committed “outright attorney misconduct” by sending two letters complaining about Meschino to a chief judge without copying either Meschino or himself. Copies of the letters were attached to his filing.

As for Meschino, he complained rather comically that Joel Brodsky was:

…constantly shaking his head, his bald head, so that the light is shining on me.

A copy of the Judge Mitchell’s order citing “deplorable behavior” has been sent to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

Last month Judge Edward Burmila chastised Brodsky for statements he made during televised interviews immediately following the sentencing of Drew Peterson. At that time he ordered that a transcript of the day’s proceedings be sent to the Commission.

Earlier this month, Joel Brodsky, distributed a press release to announce his inclusion to the “Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyers in the United States” by The National Trial Lawyers Organization. A little digging reveals that Brodsky has actually been added to the list of Top 100 Trial Lawyers for the state of Illinois – a distinction shared by at least 300 Illinois lawyers (that I counted).

According to the organization’s online FAQ, after being offered an invitation an attorney must pay up front for the honor of inclusion to their list and then cough up yearly dues in order to remain listed. They must also pay additional dues in order to be listed by area of expertise.

I wonder if he’ll get a refund if he ends up being disciplined by the ARDC…