Jury picked in Peel's criminal trial

Steve Gonzalez Mar. 13, 2007, 1:23pm

Gary Peel

It took District Judge William Stiehl and attorneys just under three hours to choose the nine men and five women who will make up a panel of 12 jurors and two alternates in the criminal trial of attorney Gary Peel getting under way in East St. Louis.

Peel was indicted last year on charges of bankruptcy fraud, obstruction of justice and possession of child pornography.

The jurors were picked from a pool of 46. Members of the panel range in age from their late 20s to their early 60s and live in Belleville, O'Fallon, Cahokia, Breese, Edwardsville and Jerseyville. There is a security guard, military intelligence professional, and retirees and homemakers.

Stiehl told prospective jurors during voir dire that the process was like going on a job interview.

He told jurors that Peel has pled not guilty and that he is presumed innocent.

Stiehl also told jurors that the government had the burden to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Burke said he may call the following witnesses to testify: FBI agent John Kelly, Melanie Jimenez also of the FBI, attorneys Don Urban, Laura Grandy and Terrance O'Leary. He also indicated he may call Jeffrey Peel and Deborah Peel.

Peel's public defender, Phillip Kavanaugh, said he may call Carla Rudolph, Laura Grandy, Steve Stanton, Deborah Peel, Deborah Pontious-Peel, Steve Korris and FBI agent John Kelly.

Stiehl asked jurors if any of them had a problem with the fact that Peel is a "plaintiff attorney who sues corporations and indivusuals."

Two said they had issues with that.

Stiehl also informed jurors that Peel worked at the Lakin Law Firm at one point in his career and asked if any juror knew of the firm since it has been in the news for the past year and a half.

One juror said, "I have read a lot of nasty stuff in the paper about them," but said she could be fair and impartial along with the rest of the jurors who indicated they had heard about the firm.

Opening arguments are set to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

Peel's indictment handed down by the federal grand jury reads as follows:

  • In 1974, Gary Peel, took sexually explicit photographs of his then-wife's 16-year-old sister, and retained these pictures until 2006.

  • In November of 2003, Peel and his wife divorced and a state court settlement was entered in which Peel was required to meet certain financial obligations to his ex-wife.

  • In July of 2005, Peel filed for bankruptcy in United States Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Illinois (East Saint Louis), Bankruptcy Petition #: 05-33238. Such filing caused state court proceedings to be stayed pending resolution of the Federal Bankruptcy proceedings. In the bankruptcy action, Peel sought discharge of financial obligations to his ex-wife, whom he listed as a creditor. Peel's ex-wife opposed the discharge. Both Peel and his ex-wife were represented by respective counsel in the bankruptcy action. The bankruptcy action was brought under Title 11 of the United States Code.

  • On January 20, 2006, Peel telephoned his ex-wife and informed her that he had a sexual relationship with his ex-wife's sister, D.R., during the marriage. Peel further informed his ex-wife that he had taken pictures of D.R. that he referred to as "sexually explicit." Peel informed his ex-wife that a copy of the pictures would be found in her mailbox at her residence. Peel informed his ex-wife that if she did not abandon the bankruptcy challenge, cease in her attempts to depose Peel's current wife, and agree to a new financial settlement, he would mail the pictures of D.R. to his ex-wife's parents.

  • In cooperation with law enforcement, Peel's ex-wife placed telephone calls to Peel. In said telephone calls and in cooperation with law enforcement, Peel's ex-wife appeared to succumb to Peel's demand to forego the bankruptcy challenge and to consider a new settlement agreement. In said telephone calls Peel's ex-wife repeatedly told Peel that she would not be discussing a settlement with Peel if it were not for the photographs of her sister and Peel's threats to mail the photographs to her parents. In said telephone calls, Peel's ex-wife told Peel that she did not want her attorneys to see the pictures. Peel counseled his ex-wife that if the existence of the pictures were disclosed to her attorneys that they would request copies, that there would be court orders for production and that "it begins to get more visible."

  • In cooperation with law enforcement, Peel's ex-wife told Peel that she wanted assurances that the originals would be turned over to her if she signed a new settlement agreement. Gary Peel agreed to meet his ex-wife on January 31, 2006, and at such meeting did show his ex-wife original photographs of D.R. Such photographs were then placed in a sealed envelope and Peel and his ex-wife signed across the sealed portion. Peel explained that he would provide his ex-wife with the envelope containing the photographs after his ex-wife signed a new settlement agreement. At the conclusion of the meeting, agents of Federal Bureau of Investigation retrieved the envelope and original photographs from the person of Peel. Such photographs depicted D.R. naked and in various poses, including a lascivious display of the genitals and pubic area of D.R.

  • On January 31, 2006, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation retrieved from the waste basket in Peel's office at his place of employment, two additional one-page color copies of color photographs of D.R. Each of the two copies contained the same four pictures of D.R. as contained in the color copy that Peel had placed in his ex-wife's mailbox. These two copies had been tom into a number of pieces.

  • On January 31, 2006, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation retrieved a Hewlett Packard multi-function, color printer/scanner/copier from the residence of Peel. Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation learned that this Hewlett Packard printer was manufactured outside of the State of Illinois. Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation learned that the paper copies of the photographs of D.R. were produced on paper that was manufactured outside of the State of Illinois. Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation learned that the original photographs of D.R. were produced on materials that had been manufactured outside of the State of Illinois.

    Count I of the indictment for bankruptcy fraud states, "Between on or about January 20, 2006, and on or about January 31, 2006, within St. Clair County, within the Southern District of Illinois, Gary Peel, defendant herein, did knowingly and fraudulently give, offer, receive, and attempt to obtain money and property, remuneration, compensation, reward, advantage, and promise thereof for acting and forbearing to act in a case under Title 11; all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 152(6)."

    Count II, the obstruction of justice county states that Peel did knowingly and corruptly attempt to obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding; all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1512(c)(2).

    Counts III and IV claim Peel knowingly possessed child porn and placed it in his ex-wife's mailbox and also had copies of the photographs in his possession.

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