Stiehl says evidence is sufficient after prosecution rests in Peel trial

By Steve Gonzalez | Mar 20, 2007

Gary Peel

Laura Grandy

United States District Judge William Stiehl denied Gary Peel's motion for a directed verdict ruling that the government has introduced sufficient evidence to find Peel guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on charges of fraud, obstruction of justice and possession of child pornography.

The government rested its case Tuesday afternoon during the fifth day of trial in which Gary Peel's former sister-in-law, Donna Rogers, testified that she was age 16 when the lawyer took nude photos of her.

Peel's federal public defender, Stephen Williams, claimed the government failed to meet its burden to prove his client is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Burke argued that recorded conversations between Gary Peel and Deborah Peel played for jurors in the first days of the trial showed intent.

Rogers testified that she was in the fourth grade when Gary Peel married her sister. She also testified that Gary would be present during family dinners and holidays and always talked to her at the family functions.

Rogers said that she had self-esteem problems growing up, but that Gary would always pay her nice compliments.

She said that Peel started to show an interest in her before she turned 16, testifying that they eventually went on a first date to see the movie The Exorcist at a St. Louis movie theatre in late 1973 or early 1974.

She remembered it was cold outside and that she wore a purple poncho made of yarn with a hood. She used the hood to cover her face during scary scenes.

Rogers testified that she did not tell her parents or her sister of the relationship she had with Gary Peel.

"I did not tell them because it was a secret," Rogers said.

She also testified that after the movie date, Peel would pick her up and they would go for drives in his car, and go to his law office in Edwardsville. She also said they would go to a "really awful" motel near Peel's mother's house.

Rogers testified that when she was at the Edwardsville law office, she and Peel had sexual intercourse and that Peel had her pose for nude photos that he took with an instant camera.

She testified that their relationship lasted a couple of months and that she ended it because she "could not handle the pain, guilt, and shame" and said that she was glad that it ended.

She also testified that before she moved away for college in 1977, she called Peel and asked for the photos back because she did not want them to exist anymore. Rogers said they met on the St. Louis side of the Mississippi River and that he gave them to her and that she tore them and tossed them into the river.

During cross examination, Dan Cronin asked her if she ever overcame her self-esteem issues.

He also pointed out that her hairstyle was pretty much the same in both of the yearbook pictures.

"Your hairstyle does not tell if you are a junior or senior," Cronin said. "Gary Peel would not have known if you were a junior or senior by your hairstyle."

The government's first witness of the day was attorney Terrence O'Leary who took the stand for three minutes.

O'Leary said he would rather not be at the trial and that he was subpoenaed to be there. He said he has known Gary Peel for 30 years and that Peel started to work at Chapman & Chapman in the later part of 1974.

O'Leary said that the Chapman & Chapman office was located in downtown Granite City.

Peter Belcastro Jr., from the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va. also testified for about 45 minutes on Tuesday.

Belcastro testified that the HP printer seized from Peel's house was the one used to make photo copies of the original nude photos that were placed in Deborah Peel's mailbox.

He also testified that he reconstructed the torn pieces of paper that were found in Peel's office by FBI agent Melanie Jimenez and concluded that those photos were also made on the same printer.

William Braamse from Hewlett-Packard testified that the printer that was used was made in Malaysia.

Laura Grandy, the attorney for Peel's bankruptcy trustee Carla Randolph, also testified on Tuesday for just over an hour mostly explaining how Chapter 7 bankruptcy works.

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