Seventh Circuit refuses to appoint Dershowitz in Peel's case

Steve Gonzalez Aug. 7, 2008, 1:54pm



If convicted felon Gary Peel had his way, famed attorney Alan Dershowitz would be representing him during his appeal process in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Peel asked the Seventh Circuit to fire his current court appointed lawyer and appoint Dershowitz to represent him. He could ask for anyone by name, but his request was denied.

As a criminal appellate lawyer, Dershowitz successfully argued to overturn the conviction of Claus von Bülow for the attempted murder of his wife, Sunny.

Dershowitz was also the appellate adviser for the defense in the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson, who was charged in the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Peel, still wanting to ditch Paul Camarena as his lawyer, said he would rather represent himself while appealing convictions for child pornography, mail fraud and obstruction of justice.

On Aug. 4, Peel filed an emergency motion to discharge Camarena as his counsel. He also asked to represent himself and to strike his appellate brief and appendix.

Peel had to have his appeal in by July 23 and the government has until Aug. 22 to reply to Peel's arguments. If Peel wants to reply to the government brief, he has until Sept. 5 to do so.

Peel was sentenced to 12 years in prison by U.S. District Court Judge William Stiehl on Nov. 19, 2007.

Peel, 63, was convicted on four counts of obstruction of justice, bankruptcy fraud and child pornography by a federal jury in East St. Louis in March 2007. 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 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 is serving his time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Ashland, Ky., a low-security institution housing male inmates with a satellite camp that houses minimum security inmates.

The Ashland facility is located in the highlands of northeastern Kentucky, 125 miles east of Lexington and five miles southwest of Ashland. As of March 13, FCI Ashland housed 1,243 inmates.

Peel is currently scheduled to be paroled on Sept. 20, 2017.

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