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Shake-up on Peterson defense team Two out, new high-profile attorney in
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff

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Published: 4/14/2010 12:36 PM | Updated: 4/14/2010 7:02 PM

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Drew Peterson may be fickle in love, but his devotion to lead attorney Joel Brodsky hasn't wavered.

Two months before Peterson's trial on charges he murdered his third wife is set to begin, two of the former Bolingbrook police sergeant's attorneys bowed out. Andrew Abood and George Lenard withdrew Wednesday, citing "irreconcilable differences" with co-counsel Brodsky.

The attorneys sparred over key trial issues, sources close to the case said, such as whether Kathleen Savio's 2004 bathtub drowning in her Bolingbrook home was a suicide. Brodsky opposes the suicide defense and plans to argue Savio slipped in the bathtub, consistent with the original autopsy findings suggesting an accidental drowning, the sources said.

Another point of contention dealt with how to present evidence of Peterson's alibi at the time the 40-year-old Savio died. The three lawyers recently met with Peterson in the Will County jail. Peterson sided with Brodsky - his original attorney and with whom he feels most comfortable, the sources said.

"We did everything we could under the circumstances," Abood said, declining to divulge specifics. "We've done our due diligence. There comes a point in time when you have to step aside. Certainly all the theories we intended to pursue would have been based on the evidence."

Brodsky said jury selection still should begin June 14 as scheduled. Though Peterson lost two attorneys, he gained veteran Chicago lawyer Joseph Lopez, who recently represented Frank Calabrese Sr., in the landmark Family Secrets federal mob trial.

"It's a very interesting case," said Lopez, who represented Peterson in a mock trial for a Chicago radio station and said he is up to speed on the evidence. "It was an accident; a slip and fall."

The 56-year-old Peterson also is a suspect in the October 2007 disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy, 23, but he hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing in that case. Stacy Peterson's family spokeswoman, Pamela Bosco, said the family fears the attorney shake-up may cause a trial delay.

"We just want it done and for this circus to be over with," Bosco said.

This isn't the first defense controversy. Naperville attorney John P. Carroll was briefly on the team but never appeared in court. The former Chicago homicide detective came under fire for a couple of recent cases, including his handling of a downstate death penalty case in which he submitted a $2 million bill to the state's capital litigation fund, prompting reforms after outraged legislators alleged abuses.