CHICAGO – Former lawyer Gary Peel, who spent 10 years in prison for possession of child pornography and for bankruptcy fraud, wants U.S. Seventh Circuit appellate judges to give him one last shot at proving his innocence.
He filed an appeal notice on Aug. 9, after losing a civil suit he brought upon release from prison last September.
The suit called for an immediate end to his supervised release, set for 2020, but District Judge Staci Yandle dismissed his suit.
She found he raised all his arguments before and lost every time.
Peel and former wife Deborah agreed to a marital settlement in 2003.
In 2005, he asked a bankruptcy court to discharge obligations from the settlement.
She filed an adversarial action.
In negotiation, he told her he took photographs of her nude sister as a teenager.
He told her the pictures would become public if the battle didn’t stop.
One day she found copies in her mailbox.
She notified law enforcement officers, who asked her to record a meeting with him.
When they met, she asked if he was blackmailing her.
He said, “There’s nothing left. I’m down to no kids, no grandkids, no money.”
She said, “As long as I go ahead and sign these settlement agreements, you’ll give me the photographs.”
He said, “On the spot.”
Prosecutors charged him with possession of child pornography, bankruptcy fraud, and obstruction of justice.
Jurors found him guilty in 2007, and District Judge William Stiehl imposed a sentence of 12 years.
Peel appealed, arguing that he took the photos before the legislature enacted a child pornography law.
He challenged the calculation of the loss he intended.
On appeal, the Seventh Circuit reversed the conviction for obstruction and remanded for sentencing.
Stiehl imposed 12 years again.
Peel appealed, repeating previous points and adding constitutional claims of due process violation and ex post facto prosecution.
The Seventh Circuit found the claims frivolous and affirmed the sentence.
In 2012, Peel moved to vacate or correct his sentence due to failure of his counsel to raise due process, equal protection, and ex post facto arguments.
Stiehl denied the motion in 2013.
In 2014, Peel filed a habeas corpus petition in a federal court near his prison at Ashland, Kentucky.
He challenged the constitutionality of the child pornography statute and claimed he deserved a shorter sentence due to new evidence.
The court denied relief, finding he could have brought his claims in earlier actions.
In 2015, Peel sought permission from the Seventh Circuit to reduce his sentence by challenging the calculation of the loss he intended.
The Seventh Circuit ruled that they already decided the question.
Next, Peel filed a motion in district court to reform judgment and sentence.
Yandle denied it as untimely.
Peel petitioned the Seventh Circuit again in 2016, but judges there found his arguments mirrored those they heard before.
Then he filed a motion in his criminal case to set judgment aside for fraud on the court, but Yandle found no clear facts or evidence of fraud.
On appeal, the Seventh Circuit found Yandle should have dismissed the motion for lack of jurisdiction rather than rule on it.
Peel sought habeas corpus relief at the Supreme Court in 2017, but didn’t get it.
The Bureau of Prisons released him last Sept. 20.
On Sept. 28, from a Fairview Heights address, he sued his probation officer to free himself from supervised release.
He claimed actual innocence on the basis that when he took the photos, the sister was not considered a minor.
He argued that his child pornography conviction violated rights of free speech, due process, ex post facto, and equal protection.
He claimed he had evidence that his former wife’s claim of damages was false.
He argued that courts decided his petitions on procedural grounds, and he never enjoyed an opportunity to address his constitutional challenges on the merits.
Yandle dismissed the suit on Nov. 16, finding he didn’t point to any new case that would alter the interpretation of statutes under which he was committed.
“For his claim that he is actually innocent, Peel relies on arguments that he unsuccessfully presented or attempted to bring in one or more of his earlier challenges,” Yandle wrote.
Peel moved for reconsideration in December, writing that Yandle used the wrong standard in deciding what qualifies as new evidence.
He wrote that she conflated the value of the former wife’s claim for sentencing purposes versus the value for proving actual innocence.
He wrote that she ignored Supreme Court precedent that removes all procedural bars to his petition.
In March, he filed the motion again, writing that 90 days elapsed.
He filed motions in May, June, and July, with harsher words each time.
In the last one, he wrote, “Petitioner seeks a ruling on the merits, not one that is tainted by this court’s assumption of an adversarial role adverse to the petitioner or this court’s retaliation for petitioner’s multiple efforts to secure a prompt decision.”
On July 18, Yandle ruled that Peel showed no mistake of law or fact and presented no evidence that would entitle him to relief.
She wrote that the value of the former wife’s bankruptcy claim was available to him as early as 2011.
She wrote that he twice unsuccessfully sought permission to bring a motion advancing the arguments he made in this case.