Peel taken into custody

Steve Gonzalez Apr. 9, 2007, 10:00am

Gary Peel

Gary Peel turned himself in late Monday morning to federal authorities who will hold him in detention until his June 25 sentencing at the Melvin Price Courthouse in East St. Louis.

Peel was convicted on March 23 by a federal jury on charges of bankruptcy fraud, obstruction of justice and possession of child pornography.

He will be held in a county jail somewhere south of Springfield.

Peel's wife, Deborah Pontious told reporters that Gary Peel was not allowed to put on his defense, complaining that he was the victim of a conspiracy.

"She (Deborah J. Peel) stole, embezzled and misappropriated funds," Pontious said. "(Bob) Sprague and (Don) Urban wanted to get the feds off of their backs over that voter fraud stuff in East St. Louis. Everybody had something to gain with the exception of Gary."

Deborah J. Peel retained Bob Sprague and Don Urban to handle her divorce and objection to the bankruptcy.

Pontious also said federal authorities told her that they planned to indict Deborah J. Peel for bankruptcy fraud in order to get her to their office. But when she got there, she said, all they wanted to do was to talk about Gary Peel.

Pontious said that Gary Peel had been asked by federal authorities whether he had any incriminating information about other Metro-East lawyers and judges.

"He did not have any information about (lawyer Thomas) Lakin and other high-profile attorneys, so they indicted him," Pontious said.

United States District Judge William Stiehl had originally ordered Peel to turn himself in on March 30, but stayed that order after Peel's public defender, Stephen Williams, filed a motion to reconsider the ruling.

After Peel's conviction on March 23, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Burke asked 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."

In his response, Williams 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 argued that there is clear and convincing evidence that Peel is not a flight risk or threat 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.

He argued that Peel is extremely unlikely to engage in recidivist behavior relating to the charges, and that evidence presented an extremely unusual factual scenario which led to the convictions for possession of child pornography.

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

He also argued 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.

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.

In his April 3 order, Stiehl concedes he has the discretion to allow Peel to be released before his sentencing. He wrote in his order that Peel has failed to show that "exceptional circumstances" are present which would warrant his release pending sentencing.

"Although the record is clear that the defendant did not possess a cache of child pornography, nor was there any evidence that he engaged in sexual acts with minors after the events which led to the taking of the photographs, nor that his possession of child pornography was part of a commercial venture, he nonetheless, in this case, used the child pornography in his possession in an attempt to gain an unfair, illegal advantage in ongoing court proceedings, and to compel his former wife to acquiesce to altering the terms of their divorce settlement," Stiehl wrote.

"The Court simply cannot ignore the fact that the defendant is an attorney, and therefore, an officer of the court," Stiehl added. "His use of the child pornography in this case was specifically designed to mislead the bankruptcy court, and to obfuscate and obstruct the proper progress of ongoing judicial proceedings."

Peel faces a maximum sentence of 40 years.

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