11/10/2007 (www.suntimes.com) Chicago Sun-Times

“Cop once fired over claim of betrayal” (Ronald Janota, M.A.N.S.)



Cop once fired over claim of betrayal

UNDERCOVER | Peterson was accused of outing fellow officer to killer

November 10, 2007


Retired State Police Lt. Col. Ronald Janota hasn't spoken to Drew Peterson in more than a decade, but Peterson is a man he hasn't forgotten and will never forgive.

In 1985, Janota was Peterson's boss at the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad -- working out of a "clandestine" office near Joliet, Janota told the Chicago Sun-Times this week. Peterson, for reasons Janota said he has never been able to explain, allegedly sabotaged one of the squad's drug stings and gave the identity of an undercover narcotics agent to a convicted killer under investigation for dealing drugs, Janota said.

"We found out from different sources that the identity of an Illinois State Police officer was revealed to the [killer], by Mr. Peterson," Janota said. " . . . We immediately notified the undercover officer that his life was in jeopardy."

Added Janota, "Putting a fellow officer's life in jeopardy is unforgivable as far as I'm concerned."

But Peterson tells a far different story of the incident, which led to his temporary firing in 1985. And Peterson got his job back after he appealed the Bolingbrook Board of Police and Fire Commissioners' decision to fire him. In 1986, a Will County judge found Peterson's firing to be "excessive."

Peterson began working as a Bolingbrook police officer in June 1977, according to court documents his lawyers filed in the appeal of his firing. Peterson had previously been a military policeman and was responsible "from time to time . . . for the security of persons such as President Gerald Ford [and] the King of Siam," according to the court papers. Two years after being hired at Bolingbrook, Peterson received a "police officer of the year" award, according to court documents.

Peterson didn't admit leak

Beginning in 1978, Peterson was assigned to the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad, a joint operation of state, county and local officers from Will and Grundy counties. But Peterson got in trouble in 1985, when he revealed to his supervisors that he'd embarked on a solo narcotics investigation of a convicted police killer and drug dealer -- the same man a State Police undercover officer was investigating, according to court documents.

Although he knew about the other probe, Peterson never told his supervisors about his own investigation until it hit a dead end.

"You had better take your guns off -- I have something to say that's real bad," Peterson allegedly told his supervisors at the time.

But Janota alleges he also learned Peterson had leaked the undercover agent's identity to the drug dealing suspect.

"Obviously [the squad's investigation] had to be terminated immediately," Janota said.

Then-Bolingbrook Police Chief William Charnisky recommended Peterson be fired, and the village police and fire board terminated Peterson.

But two separate appellate court judges on different occasions said the firing was excessive. Peterson's lawyers have said he was just trying to put a dangerous criminal behind bars, that he never did anything illegal and never divulged the identity of the state undercover agent.

But Charnisky told the Sun-Times this week: "My opinion was that his conduct was unbecoming of an officer and he shouldn't have been reinstated."