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Drew Peterson’s legal team is falling apart

By Stacy St. Clair and Steve Schmadeke, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — The already divided Drew Peterson defense team has become even more fractured. One attorney has quit the case and another has accused the chief lawyer, Joel Brodsky, of sending inappropriate emails, including one that suggested the lawyer should shoot himself.

The infighting has spun so far out of control since Peterson’s conviction this month, even defense team member Joseph Lopez — who is known for wearing hot pink socks to court and famously proclaiming that the framers of the U.S. Constitution “would barf” on the evidence against Peterson — called the situation over-the-top.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lopez said. “Obviously there’s a lovers’ quarrel going on. I don’t want any part of it.”

Lopez and attorney Ralph Meczyk confirmed Monday that Darryl Goldberg, who handled much of the scientific and medical-related testimony at the trial, has quit the case. Goldberg rarely participated in the Peterson team’s twice-daily trial media conferences and often seemed unamused by his co-counsels’ behavior outside the courtroom.

Goldberg could not be reached for comment and has not yet filed the paperwork to withdraw from the case. He will be the fifth attorney to leave the defense team since Peterson’s 2009 arrest.

Brodsky, who has overseen Peterson’s legal strategy for nearly five years, denied any knowledge of the resignation. However, he alluded to “quitters” in a vague comment on his Facebook page last week.

“NO WINNERS OR LOSERS ONLY FIGHTERS AND QUITTERS,” the post read. “I am a fighter and we are going to get this verdict reversed on appeal.”

Brodsky’s Facebook page also prompted another round of squabbling with former Peterson attorney Steve Greenberg, who was fired shortly after a Will County jury convicted Peterson of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Greenberg had opposed Brodsky’s decision to call Savio’s divorce attorney as a witness, a move that jurors said tipped the scales in the prosecution’s favor and led to their guilty verdict.

On the day of Greenberg’s termination, Brodsky took to his Facebook page and posted a 415-word statement, blaming Greenberg for not making timely objections and preventing key prosecution witnesses from testifying.

Hours after the Sept. 11 posting, Greenberg emailed Brodsky and asked him to take down the “false and defamatory” comments, according to correspondence obtained by the Chicago Tribune. Brodsky responded by threatening a media blitz against the fired attorney and by mocking a personal matter involving Greenberg’s family.

“What a looser (sic) you are,” Brodsky wrote. “If I was you I would shoot myself. Better go run to your therapist and figure out how you are going to deal with this.”

On Monday, Greenberg asked Brodsky to retract his comments and threatened unspecified legal action in a 15-page letter that offers a glimpse into the media-obsessed and bizarrely run defense team.

In addition to rehashing various witnesses, Greenberg writes that Brodsky resented any press attention his co-counsel received, required the other attorneys to call him “coach” and ordered them to make repeated objections so Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow would “lose it” in front of the jury.

Greenberg also criticized Brodsky’s decision to call Smith against the entire defense team’s advice, calling it “the worst mistake by a trial lawyer since Christopher Darden asked O.J. to try on the glove.”

“You are the rare attorney whose lack of skills should be explored, since they are obviously below the minimum level required for any member of the bar,” the letter states. “Personally and professionally you are so obnoxious, hateful and inappropriate that you are likewise unfit.”

Brodsky declined to discuss the specific allegations in the letter.

“I am working and fighting for all of my clients, including Drew Peterson,” Brodsky said in a written statement. “I am focused on Mr. Peterson’s appeal and getting the verdict reversed, and that is all that’s important. The client’s best interest must come first.”

With Greenberg and Goldberg gone, only four attorneys remain on the case, including Lopez, Meczyk, and Lisa Lopez. Meczyk, who is Goldberg’s father-in-law and shared his disdain for some of the out-of-court antics, says he will stay until the sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 26. He would not comment on the current infighting, saying he had an obligation to his client to stay.

It’s not unusual for trial teams to splinter after high-profile cases, but it’s rare for the attorneys to attack each other publicly, experts said.

The Peterson lawyers, however, have turned their brawling courtroom style into public relations shootout.

“Lawyers are always fighting with each other, but they usually keep it behind closed doors,” said DePaul University law professor Leonard Cavise. “There’s a public perception that it was a lawyer’s mistake that contributed to the conviction. I should think that all of the lawyers would want to distance themselves as much as possible from that.”

Tensions, however, had long been building between Brodsky and Greenberg. They clashed earlier this year when Greenberg publicly suggested that Peterson’s and Brodsky’s sophomoric television and radio appearances in the weeks after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy, disappeared were far more damaging to his client’s case than a made-for-TV movie about Peterson.

Still, Greenberg and Brodsky presented a united front before the TV cameras during their frequent news conferences.

Peterson’s lawyers agreed to represent him free, lured by the case’s challenges and the acclaim that would come from an acquittal. In the end, they lost more than five week’s worth of billable hours.

The loss has not appeared to dampen Brodsky’s confidence. He recently posted on his Facebook page a photo of the Dos Equis pitchman, who, commercials suggest, is the “Most Interesting Man in the World.”

“I don’t always get arrested for murder,” the caption reads. “But when I do I hire Joel Brodsky as my lawyer.”

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