Federal judge denies Peel's request for discovery, counsel

A federal judge this week denied requests from a former Madison County class action attorney to pursue discovery and receive counsel in his quest to get his prison sentence changed.

Gary Evan Peel in March filed a motion to vacate, set aside or correct the prison sentence he received in relation to his 2007 criminal convictions.

Peel was sentenced to 12 years in prison for bankruptcy fraud and child pornography possession. He was accused of blackmailing his ex-wife with nude photographs of her then-minor sister.

Because he is incarcerated in Kentucky, Peel this fall asked U.S. District Judge William Stiehl to appoint him an attorney to help him identify and obtain documents he asserted would help the judge determine whether an evidentiary hearing over his motion is needed.

In an eight-page order released Wednesday, Stiehl denied Peel’s requests and wrote that he has not yet determined whether an evidentiary hearing is needed.

If it is, Stiehl wrote that he would appoint counsel pursuant to the rules governing Section 2255 proceedings.

Peel’s March motion was filed under Section 2255, which provides remedies for prisoners to attack their sentences, and included more than a dozen grounds for relief, all based on ineffective assistance of counsel.

Some of the documents Peel sought to obtain in his discovery request included materials from his bankruptcy and divorce proceedings, as well as letters and police reports.

Stiehl wrote in his order that a number of these documents were introduced at trial, would have been excluded by the court or are not relevant.

“Thus, he has not made any specific allegations that would give the Court reason to believe he may, if the facts are fully developed, be able to demonstrate that his attorneys’ representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and that he was prejudiced as a result,” Stiehl wrote.

Peel’s law license was suspended on an interim basis in 2008 as a result of his convictions. The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) has recommended Peel be disbarred.

Peel in June told a panel of the ARDC hearing board that the hearing was called prematurely because he had not exhausted the appeals process in his case.

He argued that proceeding with a hearing before a judge ruled on his Section 2255 motion would violate his due process rights.

The ARDC, however, argued that Rule 761 allows the disciplinary commission to begin proceedings once there is a conviction and does not provide for a stay until the conclusion of collateral proceedings.

It does not appear that the ARDC hearing board has made its final disciplinary recommendation to the Supreme Court in Peel’s case.

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