Stiehl denies Peel's motion for new trial

Steve Gonzalez Jul. 23, 2007, 11:00am

U.S. District Judge William Stiehl on Monday denied Gary Peel's motion for a new trial.

Peel's federal public defenders Phillip J. Kavanaugh, Stephen Williams and Dan Cronin argued that errors during his March trial included giving improper jury instructions, excluding evidence that prevented Peel from presenting a complete defense, and allowing the government to present incompetent testimony and evidence that should have been excluded.

They also claim that evidence was insufficient as matter of law to support a guilty verdict on two counts of child pornography due to the lack of evidence pertaining to Peel's knowledge and a nexus between the images in evidence and interstate commerce.

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

Peel's legal team argued that instructions should have been given because the determination of whether a particular image is lascivious should, properly, be an objective one.

Peel's defense team claims Stiehl's failure to give this instruction allowed the jury to consider testimony of Donna Rodgers relating to the circumstances of the production of the images.

They also claim Stiehl allowed the government to argue that the evidence was relevant to whether the photographs were child pornography.

At trial, Rodgers testified that Peel had instructed her how to pose in photographs and also testified that she and Peel had engaged in sexual intercourse at the time the photos were taken at his law office.

Peel's legal team also claims Peel was prejudiced by Stiehl's exclusion of evidence important to his defense.

"Prior to trial, this Court granted a number of motions in limine by the government, including the government's motions seeking the exclusion of evidence pertaining to non-reconstructive plastic surgery, such as a facelift, which Deborah J. Peel sought to have paid out of marital funds," Peel's attorneys argued.

Peel asserted that the evidence is relevant to his ex-wife's credibility, veracity, and lack of good faith, but Stiehl said he "is not so persuaded."

They also argued the jury was not allowed to properly weigh whether the government had proven beyond a reasonable doubt whether Peel had fraudulently used the pictures to gain an advantage in the bankruptcy.

Peel's team claims that by denying Peel the right to present this evidence Stiehl denied him his right to prevent a complete defense.

"The Court remains persuaded that the personal fantasies or personal reaction to the photographs is not relevant to the jury's determination of whether the images were designed to elicit a sexual response from the viewer," Stiehl wrote.

"The jury was not instructed that the silence was an admission as a matter of law, but rather that the jury could consider that fact in its deliberation, and decide if it amounted to an admission.

"The defendant's claim pretrial and during trial that Deborah J. Peel's alleged use of funds led him to be in financial difficulty, and then to commit bankruptcy fraud and obstruction of justice by threatening her with the exposure of the photographs of her sister (the child pornography) is not a defense to either the charge of bankruptcy fraud or obstruction of justice.

"The defendant's testimony that he thought she was eighteen was presented to the jury, but the jury apparently did not find him to be credible on this point."

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