ARDC: Peel should be disbarred for "egregious and disguisting" misconduct

A hearing board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) has recommended disbarment for a former Madison County class attorney. In a report filed Friday, the hearing board found that Gary Evan Peel “committed criminal acts that reflected adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.” Peel, who is incarcerated in Kentucky, 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. The ARDC lodged a complaint against Peel in 2007 and his law license was suspended the following year on an interim basis as a result of his convictions. In June, Peel told a panel of the ARDC hearing board that it called the hearing prematurely because he had not yet exhausted the appeals process in his case. Peel argued that proceeding with a hearing before a judge ruled on a Section 2255 motion he filed in March in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois would violate his due process rights. The motion, which sought to vacate, set aside or correct his prison sentence, included more than a dozen grounds for relief, all based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Peel also 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 Section 2255 motion is needed. Stiehl last month denied Peel’s requests and wrote in his order that he had not yet determined whether an evidentiary hearing is necessary in the case. Peel also argued at the June hearing that his due process rights were being violated because if he is disbarred, he would have to wait five years to petition for reconsideration even if the federal conviction upon which the disbarment was based is later set aside. In its report, the hearing board rejected Peel’s arguments, saying that his Section 2255 motion is a “collateral attack” of his sentence, not an appeal. Supreme Court Rule 761(d)(2), which Peel relied on in his argument, provides for the delay of a disciplinary hearing when an attorney has appealed from a conviction, the board’s report states. In addition, the board dubbed Peel’s due process argument as being “entirely speculative, and we find no factual or legal basis for it.” “We find it impossible to believe that, if an attorney were to be disbarred based upon a conviction that is subsequently vacated, the Supreme Court would refuse a request to reconsider the finding of misconduct and the discipline imposed,” the report states. In its recommendation for disbarment, which goes to the Supreme Court for final disposition, the hearing board found that Peel’s misconduct “involved moral turpitude and was most egregious and disgusting.” The hearing board that issued the recommendation was comprised of Granite City attorney Leo Henry Konzen, O’Fallon attorney Robert Marcus and Richard Corkery, a non-lawyer who lives in Springfield. On the same day the board report issued its recommendation, Peel filed a motion in federal court for summary judgment on his Section 2255 motion. His motion asks the court to set aside his convictions and grant him a new trial on all counts of the indictment, as well as issue a finding of “actual innocence” on the two counts that dealt with the nude photos he had of his ex-wife’s sister. Peel contends his ex-wife’s sister was 16 when the nude photos were taken in 1974. At that time, Peel asserts, there was no federal child pornography statute in effect and Congress recognized that 16 was the age at which a person could consent to sexual activity. Since his ex-wife’s sister could consent at 16 and there was no child porn law in 1974 when the nude photos were taken, Peel asserts that “the First Amendment protects their possession from criminal prosecution.” Court records show that as of Tuesday afternoon, a  ruling on Peel’s Feb. 1 motion for summary judgment had not yet been handed down.

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