CHICAGO (AP) – A public quarrel between one former and one current attorney for Drew Peterson over who is to blame for the suburban Chicago police officer’s murder conviction has escalated again – this time in the form of a defamation lawsuit.
Joel Brodsky, Peterson’s lead trial attorney who has since stepped down from the legal team, filed the 31-page suit this week that hurls bitter denunciations wrapped in legalese at Steve Greenberg, a co-counsel at the trial who is still representing Peterson.
The burgeoning feud comes before a Will County judge is set to rule Feb. 19 on a defense motion for a new trial based on allegations of Brodsky’s inadequate representation. If the judge rejects the motion, Peterson would immediately be sentenced on his September conviction for killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Peterson is also suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wide, Stacy Peterson, though he has never been charged.
Brodsky’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Cook County Court, singles out a letter Greenberg released to the media in September accusing Brodsky of “single-handedly” losing the trial. The letter provides an unflattering account of Brodsky’s leadership at trial, saying he even insisted on other lawyers calling him “coach.”
But the lawsuit says Greenberg “developed animus, hatred and resentment of Brodsky which caused him to ignore the best interest of Peterson and become irrationally fixated and obsessed with destroying Brodsky.”
Greenberg developed a grudge, it says, because Brodsky told him to stop appearing on national TV shows during the trial.
The alleged defamation by Greenberg, the suit claims, held Brodsky up to “great public scorn, hatred, contempt, ridicule, humiliation, distress, anguish, anxiety, disgrace” and led Brodsky to “suffer great injury to his dignity, honor ... and reputation.”
In his Sept. 24 letter, Greenberg hit equally hard.
“You wafted the greatest case by ignorance, obduracy and ineptitude,” Greenberg wrote. “Your effort to blame me is suggestive of a six-year-old child changing the rules of the game when he falls behind. ... You are nothing more than a bully.”
In a statement Thursday, Greenberg called the defamation suit “frivolous.”
“It is a shame he has chosen to bring this action,” Greenberg said about Brodsky. “He is urged to withdraw his claim, and just go back to wherever he came from.”
The lawsuit also names the Chicago Tribune and AOL’s Patch news website, both of which closely covered the rift between the two Chicago-area lawyers that started just hours after Peterson’s trial ended.
In a written statement, Tribune Editor Gerould W. Kern said, “We stand behind our reporting and our reporters, and we intend to defend this suit vigorously.”
Patch spokesman Joe Wiggins said in an email, “We do not comment on litigation matters.”
Even if the lawsuit never makes it to trial, Brodsky and Greenberg could see each other in court soon. At the upcoming hearing, Brodsky could be called to the stand by either prosecutors — or by Greenberg or another member of the defense.
Follow Michael Tarm at www.twitter.com/mtarm