Peel sentenced to 12 years in prison

Steve Gonzalez Nov. 19, 2007, 10:57am

Peel leaves the federal courthouse following his conviction in March.

Attorney Gary Peel was sentenced to 12 years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge William Stiehl Monday afternoon.

Peel, 63, was convicted on four counts of obstruction of justice, bankruptcy fraud and child pornography by a federal jury in East St. Louis on March 23. He was also fined $1,000 and placed on three years supervised release.

"I have nothing left," Peel said. "I am age 63. I have no job, no income, no health insurance. My law license is either suspended or revoked. I lost my house to foreclosure. I don't own a $10 watch. Social Security says I owe them $6,000. I have less than $100 in the bank. I cannot wear a suit in the courtroom again. And I lost my new wife. I have nothing left."

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

He and Deborah Peel were married in 1967 and divorced in 2003. During contentious settlement proceedings Gary Peel filed for bankruptcy in 2004.

At trial, prosecutors told jurors that Peel threatened to bankrupt his ex-wife in legal fees if she did not stop trying to get a deposition of his current wife, Deborah A. Pontious-Peel.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Burke told the jury that Peel planned to send the nude photos to Deborah Peel's parents if she did not agree to a new divorce settlement.

"I should not have taken the photos," Peel said at his sentencing today.

He also said that he should have discouraged the affair with his ex-wife's sister, Donna Rodgers.

Rodgers, who provided a victim's impact statement, said she would not celebrate Peel's sentence. But she did have strong words.

"Gary was a terrorist using his knowledge to inflict damage," Rodgers said.

She said she feared Peel, not for herself, but for her loved ones.

Peel apologized for violating Rodgers' trust and told Donna Rodgers, "You deserved better from me."

Regarding the child pornography charge, Peel said he was perplexed that he was charged with a crime when the subject "was not a child in the photographs."

"But that will be an issue for the appellate court," Peel said.

Peel apologized to his children. He said he would have divorced their mother years ago but wanted to give them a "country club" lifestyle.

After his apology, he chastised his children for not wanting to meet his new wife and for not sending him birth announcements and photos of his grandchildren.

Peel also said that someone placed a "five-foot hooded cobra" in his bathroom that nearly bit his new wife. He said that someone shot at his wife on Interstate 70 in Effingham. He also said that a reporter tried to get her to pay him money in exchange of attempting to get a juror to change his mind.

Before making his decision, Stiehl ruled that the retail value of the nude photos Peel placed in Deborah Peel's mailbox was $1,207,858, an amount close to what prosecutors said Peel stood to gain if Deborah Peel were to settle her claims with him.

Peel's legal team argued the photos had no retail value because Deborah Peel never intended to settle her claims and instead went to the FBI.

Stiehl said that even though Deborah Peel did not succumb to her ex-husband's attempted blackmail, Gary Peel tried to get out of his financial obligation when he placed the photos in her mailbox.

"That is all that matters," Stiehl said.

Peel's attorney Dan Cronin asked Stiehl for a sentence of 100 months in prison.

"Gary Peel does not deserve to die in prison," Cronin said. He said Peel has a 17-and-a-half year life expectancy.

Cronin also told Stiehl that Peel did not deserve to die as a registered sex offender. Peel will have to register as a sex offender for 15 years. After 10 years, he can request the label be removed.

Letters written on behalf of Peel came from several Madison County attorneys, including David Duggan who said Peel was his mentor. His letter stated that he never witnessed any dishonesty by Peel.

Other letters for Peel came from Jeffrey Millar and Gerald Walters of the Lakin Law Firm.

Millar wrote that even though he had only known Peel for four years, Peel never passed the opportunity to ask about his special needs son.

Walters wrote that not only was Gary Peel one of the most ethical and honest lawyers he has ever known, he was one of the most honest persons he has ever met.

In a video conference for Judge Stiehl, Ben Maliszewski, the former mayor of Glen Carbon where Peel worked as city attorney for 18 years, said that Peel was very thoughtful and at times would provide the village free legal services. He also said that Peel never asked for more money than work provided.

David Brammeier, a former Glen Carbon trustee and Peel's longtime friend, said that Peel was "very honest" and a "straight shooter." He also said that Peel had never filed a frivolous lawsuit.

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