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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Killer Cop’s Attorney Sues Co-Counsel

CHICAGO (CN) - The former defense attorney for wife-killer Drew Peterson sued his co-counsel in the trial, claiming the other attorney defamed him in pursuit of media attention to appease his "pathological narcissism."

Joel Brodsky sued Steven Greenberg, Steven Greenberg Associates, the Tribune Company, Tribune reporter Stacey St. Clair, AOL, the Patch.com and its editor, Joseph Hosey, in Cook County Court.

"Brodsky, Greenberg and other attorneys represented Drew W. Peterson, a retired police officer, in The People v. Peterson, Will County Case No. 09CF1048, an extremely high-profile criminal case which received years of ongoing international media attention, wherein Peterson was indicted on the charge of the murder in the first degree of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, and found guilty of that charge by a jury on September 6, 2012," according to the complaint.

Two weeks after the verdict, Greenberg wrote a letter to the Tribune, Brodsky says in the complaint.

"Greenberg's letter, which is substantially false, defamatory, and misleading, was comprised of a false narrative designed to defame Brodsky as revenge for his attempt to terminate him as one of Peterson's attorneys because of Greenberg's incompetence, unpreparedness, and lack of attention during the trial of the Savio murder case, and to avoid any personal responsibility and blame for the guilty verdict against Drew Peterson, because of a mental illness he suffers from he could not psychologically bear negative media attention occasioned by his involvement in the loss of such a high-profile criminal case, and to assist him in his plan of achieving a career in the media," the complaint states. (Grammar as in complaint.)

It continues: "Greenberg's letter contains the following falsely accused Brodsky of [sic]:

"a) being a liar,

"b) being ineffective, incompetent and inept lawyer,

"c) threatening to reveal client's confidences,

"d) threatening a former partner, former co-counsel, and Greenberg,

"e) committing legal malpractice

"f) acting in his own self-interest to the detriment of a client, and

"g) otherwise having conflicts of interest and engaging in unprofessional and unethical conduct."

Brodsky claims that Greenberg followed this up on Dec. 13, 2012 by filing with the court a "'Memorandum In Support of Certain Issues Concerning Conflict of Interest and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel,' (Greenberg's 'Memo'), and then intentionally, deliberately, maliciously, with knowledge that, of with reckless disregard for the fact that, substantially all of the statements therein were false and misleading, and immediately after filing the said Memorandum Greenberg publically distributed and published the said Memorandum to various and sundry members of the press and media, including but not limited to St. Clair and the Tribune Co., knowing that it was substantially false, scurrilous, and meritless as it concerned Brodsky."

This memo, Brodsky claims, falsely accused him of:

"a) being delusional, ineffective, incompetent and inept lawyer,

"b) misrepresenting his professional qualification,

"c) routinely breaching attorney-client privilege,

"d) threatening to revel and leaking attorney-client confidences,

"e) acting in his own self-interest to the detriment of a client,

"f) introducing privileged hearsay at trial that the court had barred the prosecution from introducing,

"g) soliciting Peterson as a client with pecuniary gain as a significant motive in violation of, [sic]

"h) misrepresenting his professional qualifications to Peterson,

"i) encouraging a pre-indictment 'media blitz' and sensationalizing the matter to Peterson's extreme detriment, [and]

"j) signing a publicity contract thereby creating a per se conflict of interest."

In the complaint, Brodsky claims that Greenberg "often stated to Brodsky and others of his dream of becoming a media 'talking head' and legal commentator on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, TruTV or other national TV or Cable network outlets. He would often talk of this while hanging out at TruTV media tent erected on the Will County Courthouse during Savio Murder Trial, where he could be located during the trial, while witnesses were on the stand, and during breaks instead of discussing strategy with co-counsel."

It continues: "Greenberg's obsession with becoming a media commentator was so overwhelming that both before and during Savio Murder Trial, he expressed to Brodsky disparaging and condescending remarks regarding, hatred for, and even threats to, prominent Chicago attorney Karen Conti with whom he had become incensed when she obtained a commentator position he coveted at Fox News Chicago, as he saw her as the reason he failed to get that position."

Brodsky claims Greenberg "suffers from a severe mental illness known as pathological narcissism. (DSM IV TR 301.81)" [The reference apparently is to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition.]

The complaint continues: "Because of said mental illness, Greenberg irrationally fixated on and obsessed with ruining Brodsky's professional reputation because, among other things, he resented and envied the attention paid to Brodsky by the press during the Savio Murder Trial, as his mental illness caused him to believe that only he and he alone was entitled to, and worthy attention and praise of others."

Brodsky claims that Greenberg "convinced Peterson that the quickest and easiest way to obtain a reversal of his conviction resulting from the Savio Murder Trial was to make blatantly false and ill-considered allegations of misconduct against Brodsky. Because Peterson was facing the likelihood of having to spend the rest of his life in prison, he agreed to make false allegations against Brodsky based on Greenberg's incorrect and ill-conceived advice and counsel."

Brodsky also claims that Greenberg leaked sealed court documents to Tribune reporter St. Clair, who "in exchange promoted him in her articles in a manner which placated his pathological narcissism, thus making herself and the Tribune into Greenberg's de facto public relations agent."

St. Clair reported on Oct. 9, 2012 that Greenberg sought to overturn Peterson's conviction based on possible mistakes made by Brodsky.

Brodsky seeks punitive damages for defamation, false light, deceptive trade practices, and commercial disparagement.

He is represented by Walter Maksym, who represented Peterson in two civil cases.

In 2011, the 7th Circuit rebuked Maksym and asked to show cause why he should not be disbarred. It called his filings in a 2007 civil case "unintelligible" and "riddled with errors."

Later, after noting an improvement in his more recent filings, as well as Maksym's "long career of competent, ethical service to his clients" and other factors, the court discharged its order to show cause without further action.

Maksym told Courthouse News both that Brodsky will prevail in a jury trial, and "that his good name will be cleared and his professional reputation will be restored."

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