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CHICAGO -- After nearly seven months, police finally nabbed Drew Peterson.
But it had nothing to do with the disappearance of his fourth wife, 23-year-old Stacy Peterson, or the 2004 bathtub drowning death of third wife Kathleen Savio.
Instead, it was the size of a short-barreled rifle police seized from Drew Peterson in November that prompted authorities Wednesday to file a felony weapons charge against him.
The former Bolingbrook police officer's lawyer ripped the arrest as a heavy-handed attempt to rattle the man who has been named a suspect in the Oct. 28 disappearance of Stacy Peterson.
"They are trying to harass him," said attorney Joel Brodsky, criticizing the timing of the arrest, which kept Peterson in police custody for about two hours before he posted $7,500 bail.
Peterson was charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon for allegedly owning a Colt AR-15 assault rifle that lacked the minimum 16-inch barrel required under state law.
His arrest comes months after the Nov. 1, 2007, police search that resulted in 11 guns -- including the assault rifle -- being removed from his Bolingbrook home. And it came a day before a hearing that could result in a judge ordering police to release the weapons.
"I find the circumstances very suspicious," Brodsky said.
Even a law enforcement source questioned the timing.
"Nobody had a ruler seven months ago?" the source said.
State Police and Will County authorities defended the arrest as "legitimate," even as they acknowledged that the court hearing scheduled for today helped spur the felony charge.
"This is a legitimate charge, this is a valid charge," said Charles Pelkie, spokesman for Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow. "We do not want an illegal weapon to be put back on the streets."
The gun charge means that even if State Police are ordered to release the weapons, the AR-15 won't be turned over to Peterson's son, Stephen, who is a suburban police officer. Drew Peterson can't reclaim the guns himself because his firearm owner's identification card has been revoked by state officials.
Questioning the charge, Brodsky claimed the rifle's barrel was only three-eighths of an inch short of the limit -- and that Peterson was allowed to own it because he used it while serving on the Bolingbrook Police Department SWAT team.
One law enforcement source, however, said the gun's barrel was only about 11 inches -- well short of the state limit. Another source contended Peterson couldn't legally possess the AR-15 even when he was a police officer because he purchased it privately.
A Bolingbrook police spokesman confirmed the weapon wasn't issued to Peterson while he was on the department's SWAT team.
Peterson wouldn't comment on the charge after posting bail. But the 54-year-old former cop seemed in good spirits, joking with reporters as he left the Will County Jail.
"There's good news. I just saved a bundle on my car insurance," Peterson yelled to reporters.
Joe Hosey is a reporter at the Herald News.