The judge in the Drew Peterson murder case said he was "shocked" by the behavior of attorney Joel Brodsky in the aftermath of the convicted wife-killer's sentencing last month.
"I've never seen an attorney comport himself the way Mr. Brodsky did," Judge Edward Burmila said during a Tuesday morning hearing at the Will County Courthouse.
And Brodsky's law license may be in jeopardy now that Judge Burmila is alerting the state's Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission to Brodsky's antics.
After Peterson was hit with a 38-year prison sentence for murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio, his former attorney, Joel Brodsky, did a WGN Morning News interview and blamed Peterson for moves he made at the trial.
Judge Burmila first said he was shocked when he watched the interview, then later said, "I wish I could think of a word beyond 'shocked' to apply to Mr. Brodsky's appearance on television."
Other lawyers on Peterson's defense team have blamed Brodsky for blowing the trial. They made Brodsky's allegedly poor performance—both inside and out of the courtroom—the basis of a push to get Peterson a new murder trial.
In the effort to get a new trial, Peterson's lawyers cited Brodsky's decision to call Savio's divorce attorney, Harry Smith, to the witness stand. Brodsky had apparently hoped Smith's testimony would sully the character of Peterson's missing fourth wife, Stacy Peterson. Instead, Smith repeatedly hammered home to the jury that Stacy told him Peterson killed Savio. Jurors later said Smith's testimony clinched the guilty verdict.
Burmila denied last month's motion for a new trial but conceded that it was "clear to the court from the very beginning that Mr. Brodsky was out of his depth," and that he "did not have the lawyerly skills" to handle the case."
Brodsky said he felt vindicated by these comments.
After Peterson was sentenced, Brodsky went on WGN and blamed his client for the questionable decision to cal Smith.
"Harry Smith was called because Drew insisted that Harry Smith be called," Brodsky said in the interview. "Drew told us, that unless we called Harry Smith to state that Stacy was trying to extort him, then he, Drew Peterson, would insist on taking the stand, and that would have been unmitigated disaster. If Drew took the stand, there was no way we would win. So our choice was let Drew take the stand or call Harry Smith."
When asked, during the same interview, if he believed Peterson was innocent, Brodsky stammered, laughed and said, "They're clients. Drew is a client. I have lots of clients. My personal belief really has nothing to do with it. You defend everybody zealously. You defend the 10 guilty people so that the one innocent person isn't wrongfully convicted."
Peterson attorney Steve Greenberg, who proclaimed Peterson's innocence after the sentencing, asked Burmila during the Tuesday morning hearing to silence Brodsky. Greenberg pointed out that Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow has already said he is considering bringing charges against Peterson with regard to Stacy's disappearance. Greenberg said he made the request with "extraordinary reluctance," and only after reaching out to Brodsky and being ignored.
Burmila said the Brodsky sitiuation—and the entire Peterson case—is now outside his jurisdiction and in the hands of the appellate court. But the judge did not dismiss Greenberg's concerns. He told his clerk to forward the motion argued by Greenberg and a transcript of Tuesday's hearing to the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission.
The motion, which was prepared by Greenberg and co-counsel David Peilet and John Heiderscheidt, claims Brodsky "conducted a campaign to vindicate his actions at the expense of Peterson's best interests, and without regard to attorney-client privilege." It accuses Brodsky of saying Peterson "had no empathy for anyone else and that his screaming in court was perhaps reflective of his true character."
The filing also says Brodsky revealed "what he claimed were privileged conversations that he had with his client."
Greenberg raised the motion during a hearing to ask Burmila to reconsider Peterson's 38-year prison sentence. Peterson was transported from downstate Menard Correctional Center for the hearing. Greenberg said it took six hours to make the 300 mile trip.
Greenberg requested that the judge sentence Peterson to the minimum 20 years, but Burmila didn't budge.
Brodsky failed to respond to requests for comments on Burmila's decision to report him to the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, which will not be Brodsky's first run-in with the board. In 2004, the commission suspended Brodsky's law license for three months after determining he forged a dead man's signature on "bank documents needed to release the funds."