Joliet, IL –
Drew Peterson’s defense lawyers are hoping to prove their client has been treated unfairly in an attempt to get him acquitted of two felony weapons violations.
On Wednesday, attorneys Joel Brodsky and Andrew Abood asked Will County Judge Richard Schoenstedt to force the state to turn over all documents relating to the decision to arrest Peterson for the charges, which allege that Peterson owned an illegal assault rifle that was too short under state law. The attorneys suspect the documents could help them prove that the state used “vindictive and selective” prosecution in their case against Peterson, which could warrant an acquittal.
The AR-15 rifle was one of nearly a dozen guns seized from Peterson’s home last November as part of the investigation into the Oct. 28, 2007 disappearance of Peterson’s fourth wife Stacy, 23. Peterson, 54, is the sole suspect in the disappearance, which police are calling a possible homicide. Police are also investigating the March 2004 drowning of Peterson’s third wife Kathleen Savio, which was recently ruled a homicide. They have not named a suspect.
Brodsky has said the weapon was Peterson’s secondary duty weapon as a SWAT team member and therefore should be exempt from state gun laws.
The seizure set off a months-long legal battle over whether the state had a right to keep the weapons indefinitely. Brodsky said the timeline of events leading up to Peterson’s arrest is sufficiently suspicious to warrant further investigation. In February, Schoenstedt ordered the state to return all firearms to Peterson, provided he maintained his Firearm Owner’s Identification card. The next day, state police revoked the card.
Peterson then asked the court to allow him to transfer all of his weapons to his son Stephen, an Oak Brook police officer. In anticipation of the ruling, police arrested Peterson May 21 for possession of an illegal firearm. The next day, Schoenstedt ordered the guns be handed over to Stephen Peterson.
The timing of the FOID revocation and the arrest indicate the state was vindictive in its case, Brodsky argued.
“This timeline certainly lends more than sufficient evidence that the reason for (the charges) is to punish (Peterson) for exercising his constitutional rights to possess firearms,” Brodsky said.
Brodsky said the defense team has also discovered several other Bolingbrook police officers who admitted to once or currently owning weapons that do not comply with state law. If true, Brodsky said the state is selectively prosecuting his client while ignoring others who are breaking the law.
Assistant State’s Atty. Dede Osterberger called the request for documents a “fishing expedition” and an attempt to obtain privileged information.
Schoenstedt said he would rule on the motion at a final hearing scheduled for Nov. 20. Regardless of his ruling, he suggested the prosecution begin preparing the files the defense requested to speed up the process in the event he grants the motion.
A trial date has been set for Dec. 8, with jury selection beginning Dec. 5.