The conviction and sentence of former Madison County attorney Gary
E. Peel, 67, has been affirmed by a panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Peel, who was once a leading class action attorney for the former Lakin Law firm, was found guilty in 2007 on possession of child pornography, bankruptcy fraud and obstruction of justice charges.
On a first appeal, the Seventh Circuit ruled in 2010 that either the bankruptcy fraud or obstruction of justice charge should be dropped. The court said that Peel had been sentenced twice for the same crime, as his verdicts for obstruction of justice and bankruptcy fraud depended on the same set of facts.
The court did not disturb Peel's conviction for possession of child pornography, which dealt with Peel's use of nude photographs taken of his then 16-year-old sister-in-law.
He was re-sentenced on Aug. 1, 2011. At that time, Peel was again given a term totaling 144 months in prison.
"When one considers the ugliness of the defendant's criminal affair with his 16-year old sister-in-law, the gross impropriety of his making and retaining (for decades) nude photographs of her, his use of those photographs to blackmail the girl's sister (his ex-wife), the very large financial gain he anticipated from the blackmail, the fact that he is a lawyer, the effrontery of his allocution, and the fact that we had already upheld his 10-year sentence for possession and distribution of child pornography, we can find no basis for criticizing the sentence that the judge re-imposed, let alone for vacating it," states the Seventh Circuit opinion.
In 2006, Peel mixed blackmail and child pornography by copying the photographs and sticking them in his former wife Deborah Peel's mailbox.
He had threatened to make them public if Deborah kept trying to enforce their divorce agreement through his bankruptcy proceedings.
She called postal authorities, who called federal prosecutors.
Agents wired her and sent her to meet Gary, who proposed to swap his photos for her signature on a settlement.
Arrest and conviction followed.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton of the Southern District of Illinois issued a release on the latest Appeals Court decision.
"Do not think that you can hide behind a law license, or any position you may hold," Wigginton stated. "I will vigorously prosecute anyone who would prey on children, no matter what their motive."
The case was tried by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Burke and Jennifer Hudson.
U.S. District Judge William Stiehl re-sentenced Peel to a concurrent sentence of 10 years imprisonment on each of two child pornography counts and a sentence of two years on the bankruptcy fraud count to run consecutively to the child pornography counts, for a total of 12 years.
Peel is serving time at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Ashland, a low security facility in northeastern Kentucky. His release date is listed as Sept. 20, 2017.