Peel had malpractice case against Lakin firm before joining team

Steve Korris Apr. 13, 2007, 1:00am

Judge Stack

When Gary Peel joined the Lakin Law Firm in September 2003, he had spent the previous 17 months accusing the firm of malpractice.

Peel sued the firm in Madison County Circuit Court in April 2002, on behalf of William Coates.

Peel alleged that the firm failed to sue a Greene County farmer who may have caused the death of his client's son, Michael Coates.

Peel dropped Coates as a client when he joined the Lakin firm.

To replace Peel, Coates first retained Charles Chapman and later retained Robert Bosslet.

Circuit Judge Phillip Kardis set jury trial in May 2005, but he delayed it three times and retired without holding trial.

Chief Judge Edward Ferguson assigned the case to Circuit Judge Daniel Stack, who set it Nov. 1, 2005.

By then attitudes in Madison County had changed so fast that the Lakin firm tried to escape the community's judgment.

Six days before trial the firm's attorney, Jeffrey Mitchell of Geneva, moved for change of venue.

"Defendants cannot receive a fair trial in Madison County…," Mitchell wrote.

He argued that negative press about the firm's principal, Tom Lakin, tainted the jury pool.

He wrote that on July 20, 2005, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that West Virginia suspended Tom Lakin for a year.

He wrote that on July 22, 2005, the Belleville News-Democrat reported Tom Lakin's discipline in West Virginia.

Stack denied the venue change and started the trial.

He stopped it when Bosslet and Mitchell told him they settled.

By then the author of the complaint had turned into another embarrassment for the Lakin firm.

Peel had filed a bankruptcy petition seeking relief from obligations to former wife Deborah J. Peel under a divorce agreement.

He had tried to cancel the agreement in St. Clair County divorce court, claiming she tricked him into signing a contract he did not understand.

In January 2006 he allegedly tried to blackmail her.

Grand jurors at U.S. District Court in East St. Louis indicted Peel in March 2006 on charges of bankruptcy fraud, possession of child pornography and obstruction of justice.

He left the Lakin firm.

This March, a federal jury in East St. Louis convicted him on all counts.

Back in Edwardsville, Peel's old lawsuit still hasn't gone away.

Bosslet and Mitchell never filed the settlement stipulation they told Stack they would file. The case remains open on Stack's docket.

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