CHESTER, Ill. — Ex-cop and convicted killer Drew Peterson knew there were good odds he would die behind bars before he’d finished his 38-year sentence for the murder of third wife, Kathleen Savio.
Friday, the odds got longer still, as a downstate judge handed the 62-year-old Peterson a 40-year sentence for attempting to hire a hitman to kill Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow.
It was a subdued performance for Peterson, who shouted “I did not kill Kathleen” at the top of his lungs during his sentencing hearing three years ago. In a soft-spoken tone Friday, a worn-looking Peterson offered Randolph County Judge Richard Brown a rambling account of his nearly decade-long run as a tabloid villain, and insisted that his latest conviction was — yet again — the work of bungling defense lawyers and an overzealous Glasgow.
Peterson was convicted in May of attempting to hire a hitman to target Glasgow, who had led the investigation of the former Bolingbrook cop that began shortly after Peterson’s fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, went missing in 2007. The sentence for soliciting someone to kill Glasgow won’t begin until he’s completed his sentence for Savio’s murder — moving his parole date decades out from his former parole date of 2047, when he will be 93.
Noting that his relatives seldom live past their 80s, Peterson closed his statement to the judge: “You can sentence me, I guess, to whatever you want … it doesn’t matter.”
Peterson, who had asked a judge to fire his court-appointed attorney, Lucas Liefer, ahead of Friday’s hearing, claimed Liefer had not presented evidence to jurors that would have proved Peterson was attempting a scam to win a fellow inmate a shorter sentence, and was not really trying to have Glasgow killed. Peterson and his lawyer did not make eye contact during the hour-long hearing.
Glasgow himself addressed the court before Peterson spoke, a ritual of sentencing hearings known as the “victim impact statement” that he had watched many times during his more than 30 years as a prosecutor.
“I’m not personally the victim here. The criminal justice system is the victim here,” Glasgow told the judge. “A threat against myself is a threat against every prosecutor.”
Glasgow said the $10,000 Peterson offered to a gang member Peterson befriended while time at Menard Correctional Center had made his wife and young children paranoid. Glasgow’s 13-year-old son recently was startled when he heard a ceramic pot shatter outside the family’s Joliet home, and thought it was a hitman’s gunshot.
“He came running into the house. He was terrified,” Glasgow said. “(My family) was really unnerved by that, and that should never have happened.”
Glasgow recounted the other side of his decade-long pursuit of Peterson, whose unseemly cockiness in the wake of his Stacy Peterson’s 2007 disappearance has long galled the veteran prosecutor. After months of searching for Stacy’s body, Glasgow reopened the investigation into Savio’s death, which had been ruled an accident not long after her body was discovered in the bathtub of her Bolingbrook home in 2004, not long after she and Peterson divorced.
Glasgow would eventually lobby for changes to state law that would allow him to use statements Stacy Peterson made to her pastor and her lawyer before her death to implicate Drew in Savio’s murder — evidence jurors would say was crucial in deciding to convict Drew Peterson at his 2013 trial. Getting federal investigators to use sophisticated equipment to record Peterson in prison was another longshot move that helped win another conviction, Glasgow told reporters. In court, Peterson said Glasgow’s efforts were “a threat to the Constitution.”
Closing his remarks to the judge, Peterson turned to face Glasgow’s seat on the opposite side of the courtroom and directly addressed his nemesis.
“I never did try to have you killed,” he said to Glasgow, who turned away from Peterson’s gaze. “You can think what you want.”
Outside the courtroom, Glasgow hinted that he may still charge Peterson with murdering Stacy Peterson. While her body has never been found, Glasgow noted that each year that passes with no evidence Stacy is alive makes it easier to build the case that she is dead, not missing.
Peterson said he was well aware that he was being recorded when he discussed having Glasgow killed with fellow Menard inmate Antonio Smith, a member of the Satan’s Disciples street gang nicknamed “Beast.”
Peterson said conditions at Menard Correctional Center and the loss of his police pension — which had been supporting his two youngest children since his arrest — had nearly driven him to suicide.
Peterson had befriended a gang member serving time at Menard, Antonio “Beast” Smith, who approached him with a plan to cut time off his own sentence by setting up an elaborate ruse with Peterson.
Peterson said his lawyers had told him federal investigators intended to eavesdrop on his conversations while in prison, and Smith would tell prosecutors he would bait Peterson into discussing criminal plots on tape.
“Everything you heard on those tapes was staged and fabricated,” Peterson said Friday.
Why risk it? Peterson said he didn’t figure to have much time left in prison himself: either he would kill himself, or the Illinois Supreme Court would overturn his conviction at an upcoming hearing.
“At the time, I was suicidal. I didn’t think I had much more time left, and I had high hopes in my case before the Supreme Court,” Peterson said.
Similar fatalism seemed to settle over Peterson in the courtroom Friday.
When Brown announced the 40-year term — 20 years less than the maximum sentence sought by prosecutors, 20 years more than the minimum called for by Peterson’s lawyer — Peterson simply jotted the figure down and began shuffling the stack of legal pads into an envelope.
As he Peterson left the courtroom, Stacy Peterson’s younger sister hissed at him. Outside the courtroom, reporters asked Cales what she said.
“Give up my sister,” she said. “Then go kill yourself.”