Burke challenges Peel 's financial expert in bankruptcy case

Steve Gonzalez Jan. 29, 2007, 2:02am

Gary Peel

The prosecutor in attorney Gary Peel's criminal case has asked U.S. District Judge William Stiehl to set a hearing on one of the witnesses Peel wishes to call as an expert.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Burke asked Stiehl to hold a Daubert hearing to determine whether a proposed defense expert testimony is both relevant and reliable.

Peel, a former Lakin Law Firm class action attorney, was indicted last year on charges of bankruptcy fraud, obstruction of justice and child pornography.

Peel wants the testimony of Thomas L. Hoops, a certified public accountant and certified valuation analyst. He proposes that Hoops be recognized as an expert on the value of his and his ex-wife's assets, as well as the relative value of the assets had they been distributed in accordance with the various settlement proposals that were forwarded between he and his ex-wife prior to his indictment.

Burke asked for a hearing claiming the proposed testimony appears to have no relevance to any issue at trial, and because the disclosure does not allow for an adequate assessment of the reliability of the proffered testimony.

"Given Mr. Hoops' background, he would likely be qualified as an expert in the field of accounting," Burke wrote. "The next question is whether his proffered testimony is reliable."

"It is clear from the report what information Mr. Hoops reviewed, and what his findings and conclusions were," Burke added. "What is not clear is how Mr. Hoops arrived at these findings and conclusions."

According to Burke, "Hoops reviewed the indictment, pleadings and agreements regarding Gary and Deborah Peel's dissolution of marriage, various correspondences among representatives of the parties, income tax returns, newspaper articles, check registers, a bankruptcy examination of Peel, and financial statements of Applied Logic, Inc.

"It would appear that Mr. Hoops looked at these sources of information and made a number of findings and conclusions, such as his conclusion that Gary Peel received less than half of the marital assets in a marital settlement agreement," Burke wrote. "It is not exactly clear from the report the methodology employed by Mr. Hoops and what steps Mr. Hoops went through to extract his conclusions from the available documents that he reviewed."

Burke also said that even if Hoops' testimony is qualified and accurate, his testimony cannot be admitted unless it is relevant. He also claims that nothing Hoops has to say bears on any of the issues in the case.

"Gary Peel is charged with blackmailing his ex-wife in a bankruptcy proceeding by using child pornography photographs of his ex-wife's younger sister," Burke wrote. "Whether or not Gary Peel was in a worse financial situation than his ex-wife in the marital settlement agreement is not relevant to the charges or any possible defense to the charges."

Burke added, "Mr. Hoops' testimony would not only create unfair prejudice, but would also confuse the issues, mislead the jury, and waste time.

"The thrust of Mr. Hoops' opinion appears to be that Gary Peel was reasonable in his financial dealings while Deborah Peel was increasingly unreasonable.

"While these opinions may or may not succeed in generating some juror antipathy toward Deborah Peel, they would add nothing legitimate to any issue in the case."

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