Peel's detention hearing set Wednesday

Steve Gonzalez Mar. 27, 2007, 10:12am

Gary Peel

Gary Peel will be back in federal court Wednesday to see if he will be detained while awaiting sentencing on June 25.

Peel was found guilty on four counts of obstruction of justice, bankruptcy fraud and possession of child pornography by a federal jury in East St. Louis on March 23.

He faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison.

He was prosecuted for blackmailing his ex-wife Deborah J. Peel with nude photos taken of her 16-year-old sister in 1974.

After his conviction, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Burke asked District Judge William Stiehl to detain Peel in accordance with Title 18, U.S.C. § 3143.

According to Burke, Title 18, U.S.C. § 3142(f)(1)(A) includes a "crime of violence."

"Peel has been convicted of possession of child pornography under Title 18, U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B), an offense that is contained in Chapter 110, Sexual Exploitation and Other Abuse of Children. Possession of Child Pornography is a 'crime of violence' as defined under Title 18, U.S.C. § 3156(a)(4)(c) because it falls under Chapter 110," Burke wrote.

In his response, Peel's public defender concedes that the mandatory detention provisions contained in 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a)(2) apply to Peel's case, but argues that the law allows courts to grant discretionary release pending sentencing in such cases, where a court determines that there are "exceptional reasons" which justify continuing a defendant on bond.

Williams argues that there is clear and convincing evidence that Peel is not a flight risk or threat to the community.

Williams wrote, "Mr. Peel clearly meets the threshold requirements of not being likely to flee or pose a danger to the community."

He also said that Peel had made all of his pretrial appearances and complied with all of his conditions of pretrial release.

"In any event, since it appears that Mr. Peel is not a flight risk or danger to the community, this Court should find that the threshold requirements for continuing him on bond have been met," Williams added.

Williams also claims Peel's unique circumstances present at least two exceptional and compelling factual reasons for allowing him to remain free on bond.

"Mr. Peel is extremely unlikely to engage in recidivist behavior relating to the charges in this case which raise the specter of mandatory detention," Williams wrote.

Williams also said Peel's case presented an extremely unusual factual scenario which led to the convictions for possession of child pornography.

"Mr. Peel was not found in possession of a large cache of acquired images of children," Williams wrote. "To the contrary, the evidence at trial indicates that Mr. Peel possessed and reproduced a single image which the jury determined to be child pornography."

He also said Peel took the picture at a time when consensual sex with a 16-year-old was not criminal - nor was the possession of a nude image of a sixteen year old.

"Mr. Peel is not a pedophile," Williams added.

Williams claims Peel's second exceptional circumstance relates to the nature of his conviction, the publicity it has received, and the effect this might have on his detention.

"Mr. Peel stands convicted of an offense which carries a significant stigma," Williams wrote. "As the Court is aware, this stigma exists not just in society, but also behind the walls of penal institutions."

Williams said it is "foolish" to think that the inmates at the local jails had not read about the case or seen it on TV.

"While Mr. Peel recognizes that a term of incarceration may be unavoidable in this case, the heightened concerns associated with the pretrial and trial publicity would likely be non-existent at a remote BOP facility outside of this district," Williams wrote.

Williams added, "Such concerns also dissipate over time as the news cycle will inevitably lead to the focus being removed from Mr. Peel and put somewhere else."

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