In his ongoing fight to get his prison sentence changed, former Madison County attorney Gary Peel has filed a motion to recall a pair of previous rulings in his criminal case.
Filed Tuesday with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Peel’s motion asks the federal appeals panel to recall its 2010 and 2012 rulings in his case in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in United States v. Stevens.
Peel was convicted in 2007 on bankruptcy fraud and child pornography possession charges. He was accused of blackmailing his ex-wife with nude photographs of her then-minor sister, who he contends he had a consensual sexual affair with.
In his most recent motion, Peel contends that convictions for possession of child pornography should be reversed “because the alleged ‘victim’ was not a minor, by federal definition, when the photos were produced, no minor was abused or exploited in the production process, and the photos were not integral to criminal conduct,” all of which he asserts are prerequisites under Stevens.
Saying that he is factually and legally innocent of child pornography possession, Peel also asserts that his bankruptcy fraud conviction “should be vacated and set aside with instructions on remand that the government may, at its option, re-try Peel without the spillover effect of child pornography tainting his defense.”
Peel earlier this month filed a petition seeking a certificate of appealability in regards to U.S. Judge William Stiehl’s April order that denied his motion to set aside, vacate or correct his 12 year prison sentence.
He made this motion in March 2012 under Section 2255, which provides remedies for prisoners to attack their sentences, and alleged 16 grounds for relief, all of which were based on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Since his convictions, Peel has represented himself in various court filings from behind bars in Kentucky.
He has also done so in his pending matter before the Illinois Attorney and Registration Commission. Peel’s law license was suspended on an interim basis in 2008 as a result of his convictions.
In his most recent filings, Peel has argued that his prosecution for child pornography violated his due process rights because he and his ex-wife’s sister were consenting adults.
He claims that when he took the nude photos in 1974, the age of consent in Illinois was 16 and there was no state child pornography law on the books at that time.
Stiehl, however, didn’t buy that argument when he denied Peel’s March 2012 motion, dismissed the case with prejudice and refused to issue a certificate of appealability.
“His due-process arguments amount to the claim that ignorance of the law is a defense to criminal prosecution, which is not true, except in limited situations that do not apply here,” Stiehl wrote. “His attorneys were therefore wise not to make the due-process arguments, if they considered them.”
In the motion he filed this week, Peel asserts that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2010 and 2012 rulings denying his appeal and rehearing request need to be recalled in light of the nation’s high court ruling in Stevens.
Among other reasons, Peel claims in his motion that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Stevens “exposed this court’s fatally flawed analysis of Peel’s child pornography convictions.”
The Stevens court, Peel contends, made it clear that child pornography laws can’t apply to situations where minors weren’t sexually abused or exploited during the production process.
He pointed to the Stevens ruling, as well as two other Supreme Court decisions -- New York v. Ferber (1982) and Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002) – to support the argument he made in his petition seeking a certificate of appealability.