Peterson wins battle to get back property

By Danya Hooker
dhooker@mysuburbanlife.com

Drew Peterson can pick up his two seized vehicles as early as Tuesday morning but the fate of his 11 firearms was left undetermined after a court hearing Monday.

Judge Richard Schoenstedt agreed to order investigators to return most of the property seized from Peterson’s residence while police carried out a Nov. 1 search warrant. The items include two vehicles, 11 firearms and several computers. The state now has to make the vehicles available by 9 a.m. Tuesday and the computers within 15 days. The computers will contain copies of the hard drives, allowing the state to keep the originals.

Also at Monday’s hearing, Peterson’s attorney Joel Brodsky asked that the guns be handed over to Peterson’s son Stephen, an Oak Brook police officer. Schoenstedt ruled Feb. 27 that Drew Peterson could have the guns back provided he maintained a firearm owner’s identification card. State police, at the request of State’s Attorney James Glasgow, revoked the FOID card the next day.

Schoenstedt delayed a decision on the guns until March 25 citing a concern over whether the court could force Stephen Peterson to abide by the stipulations set for the release of the items.

“If I were to enter this order, how would I enforce (it) when I don’t have jurisdiction over him (Stephen Peterson)?,” Schoenstedt asked.

Brodsky said his client has appealed the FOID revocation but was pleased with Monday’s decision.

Peterson, who appeared in court for the first time in the nearly four-month battle over the property, showed up clean shaven with a fresh haircut, scrapping the beard he had grown in recent weeks. He said little during the brief hearing and was quickly and quietly escorted through the courthouse’s back entrance. Brodsky said recent threats made the extra security necessary.

“Drew has received a number of death threats and this was a date and time where everyone knew where he’d be,” Brodsky said. “People are beginning to get a little bit obsessed.”

Brodsky filed a petition in December asking the courts to force investigators to return all of the seized property. Brodsky and co-counsel Andrew Abood argued the state, after three months, had more than enough time to conduct all necessary forensics testing on the items.

Abood called Michigan-based forensic scientist Ann Chamberlain as an expert witness to testify to the amount of time needed for testing. Chamberlain said all testing on the items taken could be completed within a few weeks.

Schoenstedt also heard the state’s arguments and evidence against returning the property during a closed session hearing before ruling Feb. 27 to allow the return.

Brodsky said Schoenstedt’s decision proves the state has a lack of evidence and supports his belief that Peterson will not be charged in connection with the Oct. 28 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy, or the March 2004 drowning of his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

“I think that (the ruling) says a lot if you want to try to read between the lines,” Brodsky said.

On Feb. 27, Schoenstedt said Peterson could have the property provided he appear in court for Monday’s hearing to agree to several conditions. Among them, Peterson cannot challenge the validity of photographs of the vehicles or of the computer hard drives.

Brodsky, Peterson, and assistant state’s attorney John Connor all signed their agreement to the conditions.

“We’re more than willing to stipulate that those photos show the state and condition of the vehicles at the time they were taken,” Brodsky said.

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