Jurors unable to reach Peel verdict; reconvene Friday morning

By Steve Gonzalez | Mar 22, 2007

Jurors will return to the federal courthouse Friday morning to continue deliberations in Gary Peel's criminal trial.

The panel was unable to reach a verdict Thursday after deliberating for nearly two hours.

During closing arguments Thursday afternoon, Deputy U.S. Attorney Jennifer Hudson told jurors that the government has met all of its burdens proving Gary Peel committed bankruptcy fraud, obstruction of justice and was in possession of child pornography.

But Peel's public defender did not think so.

"Gary Peel is legally innocent," Phillip Kavanaugh said. "There is ample reasonable doubt."

Kavanaugh also told the jury that he was "proud" to be Peel's attorney.

"I'll be the first one to say I do not want Gary Peel to marry my daughter," he added.

He also accused the government of being over zealous and said "they created a crime that did not exist."

Kavanaugh also said Peel was "set up" and that the FBI helped coach Deborah Peel when making the phone calls.

He said that Peel was acting in good faith when trying to settle with his ex-wife and that his actions were not of a blackmailer but of a man desperate to save his marriage and his job.

"(Deborah Peel) is acting in bad faith in this entire process," Kavanaugh said.

He also told jurors to take her testimony with "caution and great care" because she admitted that she has lied under oath.

"A person who lies under oath is willing to do anything," Kavanaugh added. "And that is what happened here."

Kavanaugh said the wedding photo introduced on Wednesday proves nothing because Donna Rodgers said she was in the fourth grade when Peel married her sister.

"She never said her age," he added.

Kavanaugh also said that while the photos are in bad taste and are embarrassing, they are not pornographic.

He said photos in adult magazines are worse that the ones Peel took and that the photos do not promote sexual desire.

Kavanaugh said that the photos were also not lascivious and that the models in the Victoria's Secret catalog pose in more suggestive ways.

"But they do not show their vagina in the Victoria's Secret catalog," U.S. Attorney Kevin Burke countered in the government's rebuttal.

Burke also said that the articles that appeared in the Record newspaper may have been embarrassing to Peel, but Peel never said that they were inaccurate.

Burke also said it is newsworthy for a legal journal that covers Madison County to write about Peel and his bankruptcy case.

"The stories attract readers and fill ad space," Burke said. "The Record issue is just a distraction."

He also noted that Peel did not want Deborah Peel to sign a protective order to get the photos of her sister, but a new settlement.

Burke also told the jury that during the recorded phone conversations between Gary Peel and Deborah Peel, he did not deny that he was blackmailing her when she asked him about it.

"On none of those occasions does he say, what are you talking about?" Burke argued.

He also said that Peel was a master with words and uses them as weapons.

"Gary Peel does not let anything slide," Burke argued.

He reminded jurors when he showed Peel the wedding photo and asked him if it was him in the tuxedo. Peel told Burke he did not know if it was a tuxedo because the pants and shirt were a different color and told Burke he was wearing some kind of "formal wear."

He also argued Peel knew Rodgers' age and was "reminded constantly" that she was much younger during family dinners on Sunday's.

Burke said, "He knew she was in high school, he saw the braces, let's apply our common sense."

Two of the alternate jurors were allowed to leave, but U.S. District Judge asked the other two to stick around until the jury reached a verdict.

After being excused, the two excused jurors both said that there could be room for reasonable doubt.

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