Peel files appeal on conviction and sentence

Steve Gonzalez Dec. 5, 2007, 5:24am

Gary Peel filed his notice of appeal of the final judgment and his sentence to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Dec. 4.

Peel was sentenced to 12 years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge William Stiehl on Nov. 19. He was technically sentenced to 37 years, but Stiehl ordered the time to be served concurrently.

Peel, 63, was convicted on one count of obstruction of justice, one count bankruptcy fraud and two counts of 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.

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.

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.

During sentencing Stiehl told Peel his blackmail plan was "one last desperate attempt to manipulate" the system in his divorce and bankruptcy cases.

"You overplayed your hand, however, and now you must suffer the consequences," Stiehl said.

Peel is currently being transported to a federal prison according to the Bureau of Prisons webpage.

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