Peterson Appears In Court
ABCNEWS Learns Scott May Have Cheated Before
May 27 — The judge in the Scott Peterson case ordered that police recordings of 69 telephone calls made between Peterson and his lawyer earlier this year be turned over to his new defense attorney. Meanwhile, police think Scott Peterson cheated on his wife Laci more than once, ABCNEWS has learned.
Police recorded the calls between Peterson and Modesto attorney Kirk McAllister as part of widespread monitoring that also taped Peterson's calls with reporters. Geragos said he expected to receive the police tapes Tuesday afternoon.
"Once we see exactly what was taped, we'll file the appropriate motions," the Los Angeles attorney said.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Al Girolami also said Tuesday he would probably keep court documents sought by reporters sealed until a July 15 hearing, when prosecutors will outline their case against the fertilizer salesman accused of killing his pregnant wife, Laci, and their unborn son.
In a pretrial hearing held Tuesday, the judge said he was also considering a gag order on lawyers in the case to prevent leaks fueling news stories.
Girolami said he would rule by the end of the week whether to unseal police reports and arrest warrants and autopsy results of Laci Peterson and her unborn son.
But the Modesto judge told Charity Kenyon, a Sacramento lawyer representing The Modesto Bee and four other California newspapers, the documents would most likely remain impounded until the July hearing. There, prosecutors who are seeking the death penalty will show the evidence needed to take the case to trial.
Kenyon, arguing that the documents be made public, told the judge that Peterson's right to a fair trial could be protected other ways, including moving it to another county and sequestering a jury. But Girolami asked aloud whether, given the great amount of publicity in the case, whether 12 fair jurors could be found anywhere in California if the information was unsealed.
"The trial of the century happens quite regularly in California," Kenyon said, citing other high-profile cases including the Polly Klaas murder, the Unabomber case and the 1970s kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army.
Prosecutor David Harris disputed media assertions that members were being deprived of their rights.
"If they were being excluded, they would not be in the court arguing now," he said.
Authorities have sealed results of a May 15 autopsy report and several Modesto police search warrants used to investigate Scott Peterson's vehicles, boat and warehouse. Officers also removed almost 100 pieces of evidence from the Petersons' home during a two-day February search.
Peterson is charged with two counts of murder and special circumstances that have made his case a death penalty prosecution. Authorities allege that Peterson killed his wife and unborn son inside their Modesto home on Dec. 23 or 24. An autopsy this month failed to determine the cause of death.
Tuesday's hearing marked the newest turn in a case that has mesmerized the nation since Laci Peterson, who was eight months pregnant, abruptly disappeared last Christmas Eve. After rewards and police searches throughout California failed to locate the missing woman, suspicions turned on her husband, Scott Peterson, 30, a specialty fertilizer salesman. Peterson told police he last saw his wife about 9:30 a.m. Dec. 24 as he was leaving for a fishing trip at the Berkeley Marina.
Suspicions increased in January when a Fresno massage therapist, Amber Frey, admitted what Peterson had repeatedly denied, that she had a relationship last year with Peterson. Frey said she will testify against Peterson and has retained Los Angeles celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred.
Modesto detectives arrested Peterson in San Diego on April 18, just days after the bodies of his 27-year-old wife and unborn son surfaced in San Francisco Bay near Richmond. Authorities said they feared Peterson, who was carrying $10,000 in cash and had dyed his brown hair blond, would flee to Mexico. The bodies washed up about three miles from where Peterson said he went fishing on Dec. 24.
Last Friday, Modesto police concluded their third underwater search for evidence in that section of San Francisco Bay. Authorities have remained mum about the new weeklong effort, saying only that they are seeking more evidence and may return to the Bay soon.
Geragos, since taking Peterson's case May 2, has vowed to go beyond defending Peterson and find out who killed his wife. The defense attorney has suggested that Modesto members of a satanic cult killed Laci Peterson and her unborn son. He has also hinted that a female mystery witness could lead authorities to the real killer and free Scott Peterson.
Court documents reveal how police used Frey to their advantage by taping their phone conversations. Documents show that during one conversation on Jan. 20, Peterson told her he had hired a private investigator.
That investigator did not return calls from ABCNEWS for comment.
Alleged details of the conversations between Peterson and Frey have been published. According to one report, when Frey asked Peterson if he had anything to do with his wife's disappearance, he reportedly answered, "No, but I know who did it and I'll tell you later when I see you."
If he did say that, it could help his case, but it also raises a host of question. "If he indicates that he knows who did it, then the question is raised why didn't he tell that to the police?" Frey's attorney Gloria Allred said today on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "Did he tell it to the Rochas, Laci's mother who was so concerned about her?
"And if he knew who did it, then why did he know who did it? Was he involved in any way? Was that person acting on his behalf as his agent? Or was he not involved? I think that there are very disturbing questions raised by that comment."
Former San Francisco assistant district attorney Kimberly Guilfoyle-Newsom said on Good Morning America that if Peterson did know something about what happened to his wife and didn't go to the police with the information, it could be very damaging to his case.
"It suggests maybe it was some kind of contract murder situation that he could also be held responsible for," she said. "If he says that he knew who did it, he might have hired someone would have been the implication."
However, Allred said that any statements Peterson might have made in the wiretapped telephone conversation would have to be taken in context.
Just One of Many?
If Peterson did have other affairs during his five-year marriage to Laci, it could damage his credibility, but it could also cut down one of the prosecution's potential arguments as to a possible motive for Peterson to kill his wife — that his relationship with Frey made him want to get out of his marriage.
"If he had other women, that is he was involved in other affairs, then certainly he was lying to his wife, and that would be something that I think would show that perhaps it was not a loving marriage," Allred said.
"However, the defense might like to jump on that and try to indicate that maybe Amber Frey's testimony is not that important, maybe she's just one of many, maybe she was not the motive for the killing and therefore, he didn't kill [Laci]."
If there are tapes of Peterson's conversations with Frey, though, it would likely make her a more important witness than any other women with whom Peterson might have had affairs, Allred said.
"I think that there was something special about the relationship with Scott Peterson and Amber Frey and I think that it's reported that she will be a key prosecution witness," Allred said.
ABCNEWS' Taina Hernandez contributed to this report.