(MCT) — JOLIET, Ill. — Joel Brodsky, once the lead attorney in Drew Peterson's murder trial, was waiting in the hallway Tuesday when his former legal teammates asked that he be brought to the stand.
Brodsky refused to enter the courtroom, and a deputy relayed the message to the court that Brodsky expected to be called by the state, not by his former fellow attorneys. The refusal drew laughs in the courtroom but a rebuke from Judge Edward Burmila.
"A subpoenaed witness is a subpoenaed witness; there is no such thing as a state's witness," Burmila responded with a sigh to a sheriff's deputy. "Tell Mr. Brodsky to enter the courtroom."
On the stand, a seemingly flustered Brodsky was forced to answer questions from his former defense team rival Steve Greenberg, whom Brodsky is suing for libel along with Tribune Co.
It's a turn of tables for Brodsky, who seemed inseparable from Peterson in the years leading up to the former Bolingbrook officer's trial for the 2004 drowning of his third wife, Kathleen Savio. Now, Peterson's other lawyers have led an unorthodox legal campaign for a new trial, arguing ethical lapses and Brodsky's inept performance destroyed Peterson's constitutional right to a fair trial.
Allegations of a physical assault, an inappropriate text message, more than $30,000 in media fees and a website that raised all of 11 cents for Peterson's defense were part of the drama in the unusual hearing, which will continue Wednesday in Joliet.
Peterson, 59, is facing up to 60 years in prison after a jury convicted him last fall of first-degree murder. He remains the sole suspect in the 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy.
If the motion for a new trial is denied, Peterson could be sentenced as early as Wednesday. A retired judge is first expected to testify that Brodsky made a colossal error by calling a witness, Harry Smith, who some jurors later said convinced them Peterson was guilty.
"We're in uncharted waters," Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow said outside court. "In 30 years, I've never had a case have a post-trial motion of this nature. But I've got a good feeling for where this is going."
Greenberg said he was pleased with Tuesday's testimony, which included an expert on legal ethics testifying Brodsky had "crossed the line." He said there was nothing personal about calling his former co-counsel to the witness stand.
"This is not between me and Joel Brodsky," Greenberg said outside the courthouse. "This is between Drew Peterson and the people of the state of Illinois."
The testimony was largely absent of drama between the rival attorneys. Instead, Greenberg primarily questioned Brodsky about the licensing fees generated during the five years Peterson was his client.
On the stand, Brodsky said a website set up to raise money for Peterson's legal expenses brought in 11 cents after expenses.
He said ABC paid $10,000 in licensing fees for photos and video, a publisher paid $5,900 for a book co-authored by Peterson and a Seattle-based TV studio paid $15,000 in 2010 for film licensing rights.
Peterson's defense team has argued that Brodsky was operating under a conflict of interest when he represented Peterson, citing a contract that called for money to be split between Brodsky, Peterson and their publicity agent.
The day's most dramatic testimony came from Brodsky's former law partner Reem Odeh, who gripped a tissue and seemed to fight back tears as she testified about an alleged physical assault by Brodsky.
"There was an incident where he physically attacked me, and the police had to be called," she said, recalling the alleged attack in 2010 after she decided to leave their two-partner firm. "Just remembering what I had to go through is very, very upsetting."
Odeh said Brodsky talked to her often about how he thought the Peterson case would benefit himself and the firm.
"On many occasions, especially when we would have our quarrels about financial matters regarding the case," Odeh said.
She also testified that Brodsky made a comment to her in passing outside the courtroom Tuesday as she entered to testify. Odeh later said he had told her, "Watch and see what I know."
"I perceived that he was trying to intimidate me or threaten me," she testified.
Odeh turned over to Greenberg two contracts between Brodsky and Peterson that were used as defense exhibits. Burmila asked if she had taken the documents as leverage against Brodsky, but Odeh said she just grabbed what papers she could from the office after Brodsky packed up her files and belongings and mailed them to her.
Outside court, Odeh said she never pressed charges in the alleged attack because she wanted to end all contact with Brodsky.
Also outside court, Brodsky said he never spoke with Odeh or threatened her before the hearing and said she lied when she testified that he attacked her in 2010.
Instead, it was he who fired her after she allegedly forged his signature on affidavits, he said. Odeh denied ever forging affidavits.
Brodsky also showed reporters copies of a disparaging text message sent from Odeh's phone and directed at him.
Odeh said the text was sent from her phone after it was stolen. She said several contacts in her phone received disparaging messages and she later apologized to those people, including Brodsky, explaining her phone had been stolen and the messages were not sent by her.
The hearing began with Burmila saying he was concerned about whether Greenberg could give his full attention to Peterson's case given what he called the "ill-advised timing" of Brodsky's libel lawsuit filed this month. He asked if Peterson still had confidence in his attorneys, a question Peterson answered affirmatively.
Outside court, Brodsky scoffed at the convicted officer's current legal team.
"This is their post-trial motion?" he said. "This is Drew's last chance before going to prison for probably the rest of his life? It's not very impressive."
Brodsky also held his ground on the question of whether he ignored the warning of Greenberg and the other attorneys by insisting that Smith testify. A woman testified Tuesday that she overheard Greenberg loudly telling Brodsky not to call Smith, who was Savio's divorce attorney and who fielded a call from Stacy Peterson about a possible divorce shortly before she disappeared.
"All the others lawyers agreed that Harry Smith should be called," he said.
©2013 the Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services