Drew Peterson beat the felony gun rap prosecutors tried hanging on him for nearly two and a half years, but his cop son’s troubles are just starting.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow has opted not to appeal Judge Richard Schoenstedt’s dismissal of felony unlawful use of a weapon charges against Peterson, the disgraced former Bolingbrook police sergeant. His embattled Oak Brook cop son, Stephen, however, learned Monday that his chief is going ahead with his bid to fire him.
But Stephen Peterson has dodged one bullet — Oak Brook police Chief Thomas Sheehan failed to convince the village’s board of fire and police commissioners to suspend him without pay pending a Nov. 30 hearing on whether to fire him.
The board decided to keep paying the suspended Stephen Peterson during a special hearing Monday night, just hours after Glasgow decided not to appeal Schoenstedt’s ruling in Drew Peterson’s felony gun case.
The weapons charges dated back to Drew Peterson’s May 2008 arrest in connection with owning an assault rifle with a barrel shorter than the state-mandated 16 inches. Drew Peterson’s attorneys argued that he was allowed to have the weapon because he used it while serving on the Bolingbrook Police Department’s SWAT team.
Schoenstedt kicked the case out of court the first time in November 2008 after prosecutors refused to surrender internal communications and records to Peterson’s attorneys. The appellate court shot down Schoenstedt’s dismissal and sent the case back, only to have the judge drop it again Oct. 1. That time, Schoenstedt ruled that prosecutors failed to prove that Peterson was not protected by a federal law allowing police officers to carry concealed weapons.
Prosecutors had until Monday to appeal again. Charles B. Pelkie, the spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office, said prosecutors believe the federal statute is “ambiguous” and explained that “we’re not going to risk an appellate court decision that might bind the entire state.”
Pelkie went on to say that the point of the case was to keep Peterson’s unlawfully short rifle out of the wrong hands and that, given the current circumstances, “the illegal gun is not going back on the streets.”
While Drew Peterson emerged victorious from this particular court battle, he does remain jailed for allegedly murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in March 2004. He is also still in the state cops’ cross hairs in connection with the October 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy Peterson.
In custody since his arrest on murder charges in May 2009, Peterson has had lawyers struggling in vain to free him pending the resolution of a prosecution appeal of what hearsay evidence will be allowed at his trial.
And if things were not bad enough for the father, son Stephen Peterson’s problems are stacking up as a result of the tangled web ensaring his dad. Stephen Peterson admitted on the witness stand during an August pretrial hearing for his father’s gun case that he helped hide firearms — including the short-barreled assault rifle — from state police.
Stephen Peterson said his father smuggled the guns to him two days before the state cops served a search warrant on Drew Peterson’s home. It was this testimony that landed Stephen Peterson in his latest hot water with the Oak Brook brass, and it might cost him his job.
Sheehan is also going after Stephen Peterson for possessing the weapon his father was arrested for owning, for failing to disclose a $238,000 cash transfer from his father supposedly made to help care for his four juvenile half siblings, and for discussing with friends, family and colleagues why he was placed on paid leave in August.
Stephen Peterson has already taken an eight-day suspension from duty for driving to Joliet in his Oak Brook squad car and appearing before the grand jury in his patrol officer’s uniform when called to testify during the investigation of his father’s involvement in the death of Savio and the disappearance of Stacy.
Stephen Peterson was also hit with suspensions for making a rude comment to a citizen and running computer checks on other Oak Brook employees.
Stephen Peterson’s attorney, Tamara Cummings, said the police chief has been persecuting Stephen Peterson and looking for a way to get rid of him since his father has become a lightning rod for controversy.
“Because of the father, (Sheehan’s) been picking on him nonstop,” said Cummings, who added, “Steve loves law enforcement. That’s all he wants to do.”