Gary Evan Peel, a former Madison County class action attorney, has asked a federal judge to pursue discovery in relation to his March motion to vacate, set aside or correct his prison sentence.
Because he is incarcerated in Kentucky, Peel last month also asked Judge William Stiehl to appoint him an attorney to help him identify and obtain documents he contends could help the judge determine whether an evidentiary hearing over his motion is needed.
Some of those documents include materials from his bankruptcy and divorce proceedings, as well as certain letters and police reports.
Peel’s request stems from his 2007 criminal convictions. He was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison for bankruptcy fraud and child pornography possession.
Peel, whose law license has been suspended on an interim basis, was accused of blackmailing his ex-wife with nude photographs of her then 16-year-old sister.
The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) recommended disbarment for Peel during a June hearing, which Peel participated in by phone. He told the panel that its proceedings were premature because he has not yet exhausted the appeal process.
In response to Peel’s requests, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois filed paperwork last month that asserts that “neither discovery nor an appointed attorney are necessary.”
Submitted by U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton and assistant attorney Jennifer Hudson, the office’s response states that Peel is only entitled to an attorney if his Section 2255 petition proceeds to a hearing.
Section 2255, which provides remedies for prisoners to attack their sentences, “is an independent civil suit separate from the petitioner's original criminal proceeding for which there is no constitutional right to appointment of counsel,” the office contends in his October response.
The federal prosecutor’s office also argues that Peel’s claims in his motion, which focus on allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel, are without merit. Peel’s attorneys followed court orders and were effective, the response states.
In addition, the office argued in its response that additional discovery is unnecessary and would just delay resolution of Peel’s pending motion.
The federal prosecutor’s office contends that some of the evidence Peel requested was barred in pre-trial orders or already elicited at trial while other evidence would be inadmissible or would not help him in proving his attorneys were ineffective.
Earlier this month, Peel replied to the office’s response, arguing that it was wrong when it stated that he isn’t entitled to an attorney unless his petition reaches a hearing.
“Rule 6 of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings contains no such limiting application of the Rule,” Peel claims. “Presumably the government was unable to locate any court decision to justify its statement as none were referenced.”
He also contends that prosecutors mischaracterized his argument for discovery and while some of the evidence he requested in discovery was barred at trial, believes it is necessary this time around.
“The question here is not whether the jury was able to hear some evidence at Gary E. Peel's criminal trial. The question is whether defense counsel was ineffective in representing Gary E. Peel,” he states in his Nov. 7 reply.
He added, “For the Court to make its Rule 8 evidentiary hearing determination, it must know what - outside of the court record - was not presented to the Court or jury at the criminal trial.”