By Danya Hooker
A Will County judge Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss two felony weapons charges against former Bolingbrook police sergeant Drew Peterson, the sole suspect in his wife’s disappearance.
The state can now proceed in its criminal case against Peterson, which alleges Peterson owned an AR-15 assault rifle that was too short under state law and that Peterson also illegally transferred the weapon to his son, Steve.
Judge Richard Schoenstedt said the defense had not met its legal burden in proving the state’s case was insufficient.
“For the defense to be successful at this stage, this court would be required to make certain assumptions on behalf of the defense, and against the state as to the intent and meaning of (the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act),” Schoenstedt said. “Given the burden described, this court declines to do so.”
Peterson’s attorneys Joel Brodsky and Andrew Abood had argued that LEOSA protected their client from all state gun laws. Prosecutor John Connor disagreed, saying the federal law only protected officers from conceal and carry laws while Peterson is being charged for possessing the weapon.
The gun was seized, along with nearly a dozen others, from Peterson’s home in November as part of the investigation into Peterson’s fourth wife Stacy. Police are also investigating the March 2004 drowning of Peterson’s third wife Kathleen Savio, which was recently ruled a homicide.
Peterson has denied any involvement and has not been charged with a crime in either case.
Months after the guns were seized, Peterson won a lengthy battle to have the guns returned, provided he had a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification card.
State police revoked the card the day after the ruling. Peterson then asked permission to transfer the guns to his son and on May 22, the eve of Schoenstedt’s decision to grant the request, police arrested him on the felony charge. They later added the second illegal transfer charge.
Will County State’s Attorney’s office spokesman Charles Pelkie said he was pleased the state can now move forward with the charges. Schoenstedt set a pre-trial hearing for Aug. 28.
Meanwhile, Brodsky said although the decision was a setback, he was pleased by the judge’s agreement that LEOSA applies to the case and that Peterson was covered by the law’s intent to protect officer’s from conceal and carry laws. But Schoenstedt declined to grant the defense’s argument that the law also protected him from possession laws.
“The prosecution is continuing so it’s not a total victory but when you read the judge’s decision, there are many positive aspects,” Brodsky said.
The defense also demanded a speedy trail, which means a trial would have to being within 160 days. Brodsky said he is planning for a September trial and plans to argue that the barrel is not too short, that Peterson is exempt under state law because the AR-15 was his second duty weapon, and that Peterson is protected under LEOSA
“We don’t want this thing to drag out, we want to go to trial,” Brodsky said. “We’d be willing to go to trial as soon as we got to discovery. We have almost everything we need as we sit here today to go to trial.”