A Will County judge will decide July 30 whether to grant a motion to dismiss two felony weapons charges against Drew Peterson, the judge said Monday.
After more than an hour of hearing arguments from the defense and state’s attorney Monday, Judge Richard Schoenstedt said he wanted time to consider the case before making a ruling. Peterson, the sole suspect in his wife Stacy’s Oct. 28 disappearance, has been charged with two counts of unlawful use of a weapon. He pleaded not guilt to both charges.
“It’s certainly very interesting,” Schoenstedt said of the case. “And potentially very complex.”
Peterson’s attorney Joel Brodsky’s motion to dismiss argued that the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act, enacted in 2004, provides immunity to all qualified law enforcement officers from state weapons laws.
“The United States Congress has cloaked law enforcement officers with immunity to any state law concerning the carrying of a concealed weapon that are not machine guns, silencer-equipped guns, or explosives,” Brodsky said.
Assistant State’s Attorney John Connor said the law, commonly referred to as LEOSA, was meant to protect officers from being charged for carrying a concealed duty weapon when traveling across state lines. The law does not apply, Connor argued, to weapons that are considered illegal in the officer’s home state.
Connor also sought to draw a distinction between carrying a concealed weapon, which the statute grants officers permission for, and possession of a weapon, which the statute does not specifically imply. Connor said the law does not apply because Peterson is being charged for possession of an illegal weapon, not carrying and concealing it.
“[Congress] did not contemplate LEOSA’s application to illegal weapons,” Connor said.
But conceal and carry implies possession Brodsky argued. If it did not, Brodsky said, officers could be considered felons for uncovering their weapons while putting them away before bed or for using them to defend themselves.
“Such would be an absurd result and Congress could never have intended such an absurd result,” Brodsky said. “You cannot conceal and carry [a weapon] without possessing it.”
Peterson was charge May 30 for unlawful use of a weapon, a class three felony. The charge alleges Peterson knowingly possessed an AR-15 assault rifle which had a barrel shorter than the 16 inches required by state law. Last week, the special grand jury investigating the death of Peterson’s third wife and the disappearance of his fourth wife, indicted Peterson on two counts of unlawful use of a weapon, according to a spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office.
The weapon was one of about a dozen seized from Peterson home on Nov. 1 as part of the investigation into Stacy Peterson’s disappearance. The investigation also prompted authorities re-examine the March 2004 drowning of Kathleen Savio. Her death was recently reclassified as a homicide but police have not named a suspect.
Peterson, who has not been charged with a crime in connection with his wives’ cases, has maintained his innocence and said the weapons charges are simply an attempt to harass him. Peterson said he believes Schoenstedt will ultimately make the right decision.
“I was comfortable with everything that took place today,” Peterson said outside the courthouse after Monday’s hearing.
Also Monday, Schoenstedt granted a motion to modify the terms of Peterson’s bond, which had prevented him from leaving the state. He will now be allowed to leave provided he notifies authorities and provides an itinerary of his vacation plans.
Brodsky said his client asked for the modification so Peterson could take his children on summer vacation.
~By Danya Hooker, firstname.lastname@example.org