A lawsuit the girl’s family filed against William C. Peterson also has ground to a halt, as Peterson has refused to answer their questions until his criminal case is resolved.
The suit alleges, among other things, that Peterson’s molestation of the girl inflicted emotional distress on her and her parents. It seeks unspecified monetary damages.
At a hearing Monday before St. Joseph Superior Judge Michael Scopelitis, Peterson’s attorney, Daniel Pfeifer, argued to delay the civil trial, now set for May 23, until after resolution of the criminal case, which is set for a May 16 bench trial before St. Joseph Superior Judge Jane Woodward Miller.
Pfeifer also asked Scopelitis to give Peterson more time to answer a list of written questions the family has submitted to him as part of the suit’s discovery process.
But the family’s attorney, Victoria Wolf, asked Scopelitis to deny Peterson’s requests. The judge told her to be careful what she wishes for.
Invoking his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination with regard to the criminal case, Peterson has declined to answer the questions. If he is compelled to answer in the civil suit, and then is convicted in the criminal case, he could have grounds to appeal his conviction, Scopelitis told Wolf.
Wolf replied that she hoped the judge could order Peterson to answer questions that would not pose a risk to his Fifth Amendment protection.
The judge asked Wolf who should determine which questions would be safe for Peterson to answer.
Scopelitis took the matter under advisement, saying he wanted more time to consider it and look over Judge Miller’s criminal calendar.
Prosecutors say Peterson molested the girl May 17, 2008, in her home in the Oak Ridge subdivision in Granger, while he had been there socializing with her parents. Her mother told police that she came in from outside and found Peterson with his hand down the front of the girl’s pajama pants.
Peterson, then a 41-year-old president of St. Joseph, Mich.-based Edgewater Bank, was charged with Class C felony child molestation. The bank fired him.
At one point, Peterson had signed an agreement to plead guilty to the lesser charge of sexual battery as a Class D felony. But he was allowed to withdraw from the agreement after it became clear that he would need to register as a sex offender, despite language in the agreement that said he would not have to do so.
Staff writer Jeff Parrott: