Madison - St. Clair Record

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Peel trial centers on FBI agents' testimony

By Steve Gonzalez | Mar 20, 2007

FBI agent Melanie Jimenez testified that Gary Peel's demeanor changed from sarcasm to nervous and fidgety once she discovered torn and crumbled pieces of paper in his trash can at the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River on Jan. 31, 2006.

In its second week, Peel's obstruction of justice, bankruptcy fraud and possession of child pornography trial, centered on events after he was nabbed outside a Hardee's restaurant in Glen Carbon last year.

According to Jimenez, Peel consented to a search of his office to look for photographs. He pointed to family pictures on his credenza. But once she looked in a garbage can and located torn pieces of paper she said Peel's attitude changed.

The FBI agent in charge of Peel's case before Jimenez was assigned said that his main goal in the investigation was to get the original child pornographic pictures Peel had in his possession.

Special Agent John Kelly said he agreed to meet with Deborah Peel on Jan. 25, 2006, to make recorded telephone calls of Gary Peel in order to confirm her statements.

Kelly said that on Jan. 31, 2006, the day Deborah Peel had a recording device in her purse with Gary Peel at the Glen Carbon Hardee's, he was in the restaurant. Another FBI agent and U.S. Attorney Kevin Burke waited outside.

He said that once the meeting was over, he approached Gary Peel, identified himself and asked him to speak with Burke in a car outside.

Kelly said Peel agreed and was informed that he was not being detained and was free to leave the vehicle and contact an attorney at any time during the conversation.

Kelly also said that he served a personal search warrant on Peel and that he handed over an envelope that contained the five original nude photographs of Deborah Peel's younger sister.

He also testified that he had previously seen four of the photographs that were photo copied on a piece of paper and left in Deborah Peel's mailbox on Jan. 20.

Kelly said that Peel agreed to go to the U.S. Attorney's office in Fairview Heights and that he also contacted attorney Clyde Kuehn.

Kelly said after the meeting, they went to Peel's house where he handed over a HP all-in-one printer which was sent to the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va. along with the torn pieces of paper Jimenez found in Peel's office later in the day.

During Kelly's cross examination, attorney Dan Cronin of the federal public defender's office asked several questions to establish that Peel was cooperating at that time.

He also asked if Kelly had found any nude photos on Peel's laptop computer. Kelly said he did not.

During his cross examination of Jimenez, Cronin asked her if sarcasm was a sign of Peel being nervous.

When the trial started in the morning, Deborah Peel was cross examined by federal public defender Stephen Williams.

Williams asked her if the FBI gave her advice on what to say to Peel before she would make the recorded phone calls. She responded they would.

"So these calls were staged," Williams said. "Gary had no knowledge and his answers were spontaneous."

Williams asked Deborah Peel how private information from Peel's deposition ended up in the Record. He also asked about the protective order Peel wanted in exchange for a deposition Deborah Peel wanted from his new wife, Deborah Pontious Peel.

Gary Peel's youngest son, Jeff, a police officer with the Fairview Heights Police Department also took the stand Monday.

He testified that he was disciplined by the department after he ran Pontious' name through a police computer to get her age because he had heard that she was "much younger" than his father.

He said that he should not have ran Pontious' name, but was honest during the department investigation into the matter that ended with Jeff Peel getting a letter of reprimand placed in his personnel file.

Jeff Peel also testified that he tried to have a relationship with his father as long as his dad knew that he did not want to see his new wife. He said the two would often meet for lunch or dinner, but then one day his father told him that he did not want to talk to him anymore.

He also testified that the Sunday after his father placed the items in his mother's mailbox his dad came over to the house to talk about things.

Jeff Peel said that his father told him that if he goes down, he will take everyone with him. He said he figured his father was talking about legal fees.

During cross examination, Cronin asked Jeff Peel if he planned on talking to his father about the photos that were left in his mother's mailbox.

Jeff said he did plan to discuss that with his father.

Cronin then asked Jeff if he recorded the conversation or called local, state or federal law enforcement officials to come and record the meeting. He said that he did not.

After Jeff testified, Shirley DeConcini, a secretary at Reed Armstrong testified for five minutes. She has worked at the law firm for since 1961.

She testified that Reed Armstrong was located in the Edwardsville National Bank building across from the courthouse when Peel worked at the firm.

After she testified, Deborah Peel's attorney, Don Urban, fielded questions about his role in getting her to talk to the FBI.

Urban said that he passed the bar exam in 1979 and has never "been presented with anything quite like this."

He also said that the protective order Peel and his attorney drafted was way too strict and that he advised his client not to accept the terms.

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Organizations in this Story

Reed, Armstrong Mudge & Morrissey