By Danya Hooker
The village of Bolingbrook will provide legal counsel to Drew Peterson in his defense against an excessive force lawsuit against him, two other Bolingbrook officers and the village.
The lawsuit, filed Dec. 17 by Bolingbrook resident Timothy Brownlee, 35, stems from a May 28 arrest in which Brownlee said officers harassed and assaulted him.
Village attorney James Boan said the village is bound by law to defend any officers in such cases. Since Peterson was an active-duty officer at the time of the incident, he is protected under that law.
Peterson, 54, resigned from the Police Department in mid-November shortly after officials named him a suspect in the Oct. 28 disappearance of his 23-year-old wife Stacy Peterson.
The investigation into her disappearance also pushed officials to take another look at the 2004 death of Kathleen Savio, Drew Peterson’s third wife. Savio’s body was found in her bathtub in her Bolingbrook home and her death was ruled an accident. Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow has said her death may have been staged to look like an accident.
Peterson has denied any wrongdoing in either case, insisting Savio’s death was an accident and that Stacy Peterson left him for another man. He has not been charged with a crime.
Joel Brodsky, Peterson’s lawyer, said Brownlee’s lawsuit was baseless.
“Brownlee is obviously a man who tried to capitalize on this tragedy,” Brodsky said. “We have a missing mom – Stacy, we have a deceased mom – Kathleen. Drew’s children and Drew himself has been through hell. It’s a real shame that someone would think so low to do soemthing like that.”
Bolingbrook Cmdr. Chris Prochut said the department has proof Peterson was not involved in the alleged assault.
“There’s videotape of the incident,” Prochut said. “Drew Peterson was not on duty and he was not present during the incident.”
Brownlee’s lawyer Russell Ainsworth, with the Chicago-based civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy, said Brownlee had not been able identify the officers involved in the incident but later recognized Peterson as one of them after seeing him in the news. Ainsworth said he was glad to hear there was a tape of the incident and was looking forward to seeing it.
“He wouldn’t bet his life on it (being Peterson), but that’s what he saw,” Ainsworth said.
Prochut said he was not sure whether Peterson was scheduled to work that night but even if he had been, his shift would not have started until 5:30 p.m.
“He works nights and this happened at 2:02 in the afternoon,” Prochut said.
Brownlee was arrested at about 2 p.m. May 28 after his 72-year-old neighbor called police about a disturbance between the two. The lawsuit contends that Brownlee became concerned for his safety after an arresting officer began using racially offensive language toward Brownlee, who is African American. The lawsuit states two officers invasively searched Brownlee and that Peterson broke Brownlee’s thumb while handcuffing him.
The charges against Brownlee were dismissed in September, according to Ainsworth.
Prochut said Brownlee was never strip searched and was uncooperative during the booking process, forcing officers to restrain him. Brownlee did request medical treatment but Prochut said he has no knowledge of a medical report showing Brownlee’s thumb was broken.
Brownlee called to request an internal investigation May 30 but the investigation ended when Brownlee failed to follow-up on the complaint on his lawyer’s advice, Prochut said. He is suing the officers and the village on 12 counts including excessive force, assault and battery, false imprisonment and false arrest.
Ainsworth expects both sides to exchange evidence by the end of the month.