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Peterson live retrial hearing blog

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WGN is inside the courtroom at the Drew Peterson retrial hearing. Get the latest updates here.

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Drew Peterson soon could find himself fighting to keep his pension, as an investigator hired by the Bolingbrook Police Pension Fund has found there’s enough evidence to begin forfeiture proceedings against the retired sergeant.

Attorney Charles Atwell forwarded his decision after a nine-month review that included examining court transcripts and other records to determine whether Peterson’s murder conviction meant he should be stripped of his pension. In a brief letter sent to village officials the earlier this month, Atwell said state statutes would support holding a hearing to consider terminating the benefit.

Under Illinois law, the board could revoke Peterson’s $79,000-a-year pension if it finds he used his law-enforcement powers or skills to drown his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004.

“By reason of the aforesaid felony conviction, I believe there exists sufficient evidence, upon which the Board may proceed to conduct a hearing to consider termination of Peterson’s pension benefits,” Atwell wrote in the letter, which the Tribune obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Atwell’s findings mark an ironic turn in the high-profile case, given that prosecutors argued that Peterson killed Savio partially because he did not want to share his pension with her. They also come as welcome news to Savio’s sister, Sue, who believes Peterson has long held himself above the law.

“As a police officer, you’re supposed to serve and protect. He didn’t protect,” Sue Savio said. “He used his law-enforcement skills and knowledge to go out and murder my sister. If you do the crime, you should pay the full price. There shouldn’t be any exceptions.”

Peterson’s pension, however, cannot be stripped without a public hearing at which he could call witnesses and board members would act almost like jurors. He has a right to attend the proceedings, too, which could create a logistical nightmare for village officials.

The hearing cannot be held at Menard Correctional Center – the maximum-security facility where he’s currently being held – because it would violate state laws that require such proceedings to held in an open forum. It’s also unlikely a court would force the Illinois Department of Corrections to transport Peterson to Bolingbrook for a pension board meeting, board attorney Richard Reimer said.

“If the board decides to move forward, there would be a lot of issues that need to be figured out,” Reimer said.

Peterson, 60, retired in November 2007 while under investigation for Savio’s death and the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy. He has not been charged with Stacy’s vanishing, but he remains the only suspect.

A Will County jury convicted him of Savio’s murder in September 2012, after a seven-week trial that made national headlines. He was subsequently sentenced to 38 years in prison.

Bolingbrook’s five-member pension board – which contains three current or former officers who worked with Peterson – still must decide whether it wants to bring proceedings against him. The trustees are slated to meet next in April, but they most likely will hold a special meeting before that time to discuss the Peterson issue, board attorney Richard Reimer said.

Proving a direct connection between Savio’s death and Peterson’s municipal employment won’t be easy, experts have said.

Will County prosecutors were never able to pinpoint an exact time of death in the largely circumstantial case, but the evidence suggested that Savio drowned when Peterson was off-duty. They also could not prove the events leading up to her drowning, which could make it difficult to determine whether he used police training or know-how to commit the murder.

Other pension boards have faced such situations after high-profile convictions, only to find themselves unable to revoke the retirement. For example, disgraced former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge — who was fired in 1993 after years of allegations of police torture under his watch — still receives his $3,000-a-month pension check despite a felony conviction for lying about interrogation techniques.

There are instances in which Illinois pension boards have determined that the skills that public servants develop on the job facilitated off-the-clock criminal behavior. In 2011, for example, a state appellate court upheld the city of Chicago’s decision to strip a firefighter of his pension after he was convicted of committing multiple arsons. Although they occurred when he was off-duty, the court found that the firefighter had “specialized knowledge” gained from his department experience and training that helped him ignite the fires.

Though authorities believe Peterson was off-duty when he killed Savio, he was on the clock when he helped neighbors discover her body and when he was questioned by investigators. Prosecutors also suggested that his training as a crime scene evidence technician allowed him to stage the death to make it look like an accident.

None of those things will be enough to take his retirement away, his attorney Steve Greenberg said.

“There is absolutely no basis in law or fact (to strip his pension),” Greenberg said. “This is simply the flavor de jour to pile on Drew. At some point, I hope, they will start applying the same laws that apply to everyone else to Drew Peterson, and make it a fair fight.”

Peterson’s retirement checks currently are being used to care for his two young children, both of whom are still in grade school, his attorneys said. Stephen Peterson, one of the former officer’s sons from his first marriage, has been taking care of his half-siblings since his father’s arrest in May 2009.

Peterson formally appealed his conviction earlier this month, arguing that mistakes by both the judge and his former lead defense attorney denied him a fair trial.

By Stacy St. Clair Tribune reporter

Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

The retrial hearing has now adjourned.

The judge will take it under advisement.

Ruling expected tomorrow beginning at 1 p.m.

“It was a dictatorship.”

That is how Steve Greenberg has described working on the Peterson case with Joel Brodsky.

Judge Burmila had asked Greenberg why neither he nor any of the other members of the defense team expressed their concern about the calling of Harry Smith to the stand or express the turmoil that had been plaguing the defense team.   “Why didn’t you come to me and tell me that this conundrum had arrived?” Burmila said.

 

Greenberg explained to Burmila that when he attempted to discuss issues with Brodsky sometimes he would get a bump or a shove.   Brodsky clearly unhappy with that statement made an audible “ah” and shook his head in disbelief in the overflow room.

Peterson defense attorney Steve Greenberg is now talking about Joel Brodsky’s calling Harry Smith to the stand and how it ultimately sealed the fate of Peterson.

Greenberg has said that Brodsky, who was the lead attorney, called Smith without the backing of the remaining defense attorney’s.

Brodsky is sitting in the media overflow room across the hall from the courtroom listening to Greenberg blame him calling it an “awful strategy”

“If you boil it down,” Greenberg said “This testimony was probably the most incriminating  piece of evidence against Mr. Peterson and it was brought out by the defense.”     Greenberg said that is not a “reasonable strategy.”

Attorneys for both sides in the case of Drew Peterson have been stating their case to Judge Burmila as to why Peterson should or should not get a new trial.

Arguments have been going on for more than an hour,  with the defense basically rehashing and reminding the judge what took place during the trial.

Judge Burmila has said he is willing to hear arguments until 5:30 Wednesday. It is not clear if sentencing will happen today.

If Burmila denies Peterson a right to a new trial,  the the sentencing will follow shortly after.

Drew Peterson’s defense team wants to call Will County State’s attorney James Glasgow to the stand, but are having a hard time convincing the judge.

Greenberg wants to call James Glasgow to the stand regarding a statement he made to the media outside the courthouse during the trial after Brodsky called Harry Smith to the stand.

Glasgow was quoted as calling that choice, “a gift from god.”

Greenberg says this statement would impeach Brodsky’s credibility.

A retired Cook County judge has taken the stand to discuss the conduct of Joel Brodsky during the Drew Peterson trial.

Daniel Locallo, who has experience in legal malpractice, told the court that the public relations agreement Brodsky signed into with a public relations agency was a conflict of interest. “It’s a complete violation,”  said Locallo, “ The conflict is who does Mr. Brodsky owe his loyalty too?  His pocket book or Mr. Peterson.”

Defense attorney Steve Greenberg then turned his attention to the testimony of Savio’s divorce attorney – asking Locallo, “Do you have an opinion as to whether calling Mr. Harry Smith was a reasonable trial strategy?”

“Yes, it was not a reasonable trial strategy,” Locallo said, “By calling Mr. Smith he allowed the jury to hear that someone was there as to how Savio was killed by Peterson.”

Drew Peterson is expected to talk sometime this afternoon during the sentencing hearing.

A hearing requesting a new trial for Drew Peterson is about to get underway for the second day.  Retired Judge Daniel Locallo, is expected to take the stand and give his professional opinion as to his career experience and how it was a mistake for Joel Brodsky to call Kathy Savio’s divorce attorney Harry Smith to the stand.

Locallo does not have a direct connection to this case.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Steve Greenberg called Joel Brodsky in an effort to paint him as an unethical attorney who did not have his clients best interest at heart.   Ironically, Brodsky’s calling of Harry Smith to the stand during the murder trial never came up during his testimony.

Judge Edward Burmila is expected to go directly into sentencing if he does not approve a request for a new trial.  Kathy Savio’s father, brother and sister are planning on making victim impact statements.

Will County State’s attorney James Glasgow will hold a press conference along with members of Kathleen Savio and Stacy Peterson’s family shorting after court concludes for the day.

In what has to be one of the most awkward moments of this entire Drew Peterson case, defense attorney Steve Greenberg is questioning Joel Brodsky on the stand about a public relations agreement Brodsky signed into with Glen Selig.   Selig of the publicity agency was the public relations agency that assisted Brodsky and Peterson with media interviews.

Brodsky and Greenberg have been feuding throughout the trial, which resulted in Brodsky resigning and a lawsuit against Greenberg.

Greenberg has spent his time questioning Brodsky about money he paid to a public relations agency out of Drew Peterson trust account.   Not a single question regarding Harry Smith.

Brodsky is off the stand.

The hearing will be continued at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Sentencing expected to follow unless new trial granted.

Peterson defense attorney David Peilet has called a daily courtroom watcher to the stand.

Jennifer Spohn has testified that on the morning of August 29th Spohn overheard a conversation between Joel Brodsky and Steve Greenberg in the hallway. Spohn says they were standing just a few feet away when Greenberg said to Brodsky: “We should not put  Harry Smith on the Stand” she said. Brodsky replied: “Yes we are doing it, we need him. “

Spohn said Greenberg then said, “I filed 74 expletive motions to stop Smith form testifying and and now you are going to undo it all.”

It was Harry Smith’s testimony that sealed the fate for Drew Peterson during the trial.  Jurors had said his testimony about a conversation he had with Stacy Peterson aided their decision. Smith was called to the stand by Joel Brodsky.

Harry Smith was Kathy Savio’s divorce attorney and eventually was contacted by Stacy Peterson.

-WGN Assignment Editor, Kelly Barnicle

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