Drew Peterson’s right to have control of his property doesn’t outweigh the state’s right to retain possible evidence, a Will County judge said Thursday when he denied Peterson’s request to let his son Stephen hold onto 11 guns seized from Peterson’s home.
In February, Judge Richard Schoenstedt ordered the guns – along with other seized property – be returned as long as Peterson maintained a firearm owner’s identification card.
Peterson’s attorney asked the judge to amend the order when state police revoked the FOID card the day after the order. But Schoenstedt said Peterson must show he has an intention to utilize the guns in some way before his property rights can trump the state’s rights.
“Without a specific purpose, it doesn’t pass the balancing test,” Schoenstedt said. “I don’t believe there’s enough to change my order.”
Brodsky said his client will legally transfer the property to Stephen Peterson and then file another request to have the guns handed over to him.
Stephen Peterson appeared in court Thursday in case the judge ruled in favor of his father. Peterson, an Oak Brook police officer received an eight-day unpaid suspension from the department April 9 for wearing his police uniform and driving a marked squad car to his grand jury appearance.
Peterson was subpoenaed to testify before the special grand jury investigating the disappearance of his father’s fourth wife Stacy and the death of his third wife Kathleen Savio in 2004.
Stephen Peterson declined to comment on the outcome of Thursday’s hearing.
Despite their defeat Thursday, Peterson’s attorneys said the judge’s original ruling to return the items is proof the state’s case against their client is weak.
“This judge would have never given Drew the guns back, FOID card or not, if he would’ve thought that they were involved in criminal activity,” attorney Andrew Abood said. “The government submitted ex parte evidence, and they don’t have any evidence that these guns were involved in any crime whatsoever.”
Will County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Chuck Pelkie disagreed.
“We’re very pleased by the judge’s ruling in this case,” Pelkie said. Judge Schoenstedt made it very clear that he listened to the facts as they were presented to him … and at this point, given what he knows about this investigation, he feels that it’s appropriate that the guns remain in the possession of the Illinois State Police.”
Brodsky filed the original request to have the property returned in December, arguing that the state had more than enough time to conduct all necessary forensic testing on the items. Brodsky said state police are depriving his client of his property simply to harass Peterson.
“State police want to vex Drew,” Brodsky said. “There’s no other reason. They have the guns, they have all the evidence they’re ever going to get out of the guns, they have no evidence the guns were involved in any kind of criminal activity.”
“That suggestion is absolutely ridiculous,” Pelkie countered. “The only thing that Illinois State Police want to do and the only thing that the state’s attorney’s office wants to do is to get to the bottom of what happened to Stacy Peterson.”