Mermaid sculptures, $40k diamond--conveyances of love for bankrupt lawyer

By Steve Korris | Nov 21, 2005

Bankrupt attorney Gary Peel sold his half of his household furnishings to his wife, Deborah A. Pontious-Peel, for a dollar last year.

Bankrupt attorney Gary Peel sold his half of his household furnishings to his wife, Deborah A. Pontious-Peel, for a dollar last year.

The sale included an 800-pound mermaid sculpture, a mermaid fountain and a mermaid kitchen table.

“My new wife loves mermaids,” Gary Peel told bankruptcy trustee Laura Grandy in a sworn examination. Peel works for the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River.

David Peel, oldest of Gary Peel’s three children by former wife Deborah J. Peel, gave the Record a transcript of the examination.

The mermaids offend David Peel because his father stopped making regular payments to his mother under their divorce settlement last year.

Deborah J. Peel tried to enforce the settlement, but Gary Peel automatically stayed her claim in July by filing a petition at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in East St. Louis.

In his petition he valued his furnishings at zero.

Bankruptcy trustee Grandy, questioning Gary Peel under oath Sept. 29, asked, “Do you personally not have any furnishings?”

“That is correct,” Peel said.

“At the house that you live -” Grandy began.

Gary Peel’s attorney, Steven Stanton, said, “Just a second. There might be a few items.” He said he could provide a list.

Acts of love

Peel said, “Well maybe, except that I also conveyed my interest in all of my property to my current wife.”

He added that when he separated from his first wife, he had a table and four chairs, a TV, a mattress and a box spring, and an end table.

“After I moved in my new house I did buy some property,” he said, “but ultimately I quit...quit claim deed is the wrong word. I gave a bill of sale to my current wife of all of that, all of my interest in that property.

“It was kind of an act of – I’m not sure if we call it love and affection or good faith – to show her that I had some financial commitment and interest in her. It was not being just ultimately consumed by my ex-wife.”

Grandy asked if his current wife paid anything for the goods that were conveyed to her.

“I think I made her give me a dollar bill,” he said.

“Did you actually write out a bill of sale?” Grandy asked.

“Yes, sure did,” Peel said.

Grandy asked for it. Stanton found it.

“This is it, dated March 23rd of 2004,” Peel said.

Grandy asked if he knew the value of the furnishings. Peel said, “Very difficult to say because a lot of this – I guess all of it is used at this point.”

Grandy asked what he paid for it.

Peel said probably $4,000 for the dining room and a couple thousand for the living room.

The mermaid things

“Three mermaid things here,” he said. “That, I would say, is probably $20,000.”

Grandy asked, “What are mermaid things?”

“They’re statues,” Peel said.

He said he had a table in the eating area with a large glass top.

“The base or the pedestal is a mermaid which is holding the table,” Peel said.

“And then in my family room if you will – and my wife has just hung up – My new wife loves mermaids," Peel said. "That’s all. She’s got a lot of mermaids added to that.

“And then I have sort of two mermaids as kind of a fountain thing, to put it outside. It’s four of five foot tall.

“And then I have an outdoor large single mermaid thing that’s probably 800 pounds or more. It’s probably eight feet, nine feet tall.

“I think I probably paid $20,000 or $30,000 for them.”

He said a line on the bill for “other personal property” included a large screen television that he bought for $3,000 to $4,000.

Near the end of the examination Grandy asked, “How much was the ring that you bought your – Deborah A.?”

“I believe that the original purchase price was about $40,000," Peel answered. "That’s not enough for what she’s been through.”

Grandy’s job involves squeezing every last dollar out of bankrupt persons. She does not represent Deborah J. Peel or anyone else.

“I represent myself,” Grandy told the Record.

The question of whether Gary Peel should resume payments to Deborah J. Peel rests in the hands of U. S. Bankruptcy Judge Gerald Fines of Danville.

Fines will hear arguments Feb. 3, as visiting judge in East St. Louis, on a motion of Deborah J. Peel to lift the stay on her claims against Gary Peel.

Deborah J. Peel argues that the payments constituted maintenance and support, which a bankruptcy court cannot block.

Gary Peel argues that the payments carried out a property division, entitling Deborah J. Peel to nothing more than the rest of his creditors.

Peel miffed by 'current' wife reference

Gary Peel twice referred to his spouse as his “current wife” in an examination by bankruptcy trustee Laura Grandy, but he got angry when Grandy called her that.

“I don’t like the word current because it implies that it’s, you know, temporary,” Peel told Grandy.

“In my first wife’s answers to interrogatories or something she refers to my wife now as a current and temporary wife, which I kind of take offense at. So, no offense intended for your use, but to separate the two...” Peel said.

“If she had a better name, like not Debbie,” Grandy replied.

Peel said, “Yes, it would make it easier, wouldn’t it?”

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