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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — An assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa was appointed last month by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to serve as the top federal prosecutor until a presidential appointment is made.
Sean Berry, formerly acting as U.S. attorney for the district after U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr. retired last year, has served in the office for about 22 years. He joined the district in 1999, and has served as the first assistant U.S. attorney and criminal chief while in the office.
Berry has extensive experience prosecuting complex white collar crime and child exploitation cases, including a well-known Cedar Rapids case against James Bentley of Vinton. Bentley was convicted in 2007 of possession of child pornography and sexual exploitation of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage of Cedar Rapids. He is serving a 100-year sentence in federal prison.
Jetseta was killed by James’ brother, Roger Bentley, in 2005 after she was kidnapped from her grandmother’s home and sexually abused. Roger Bentley was convicted in state court in 2006 of kidnapping, sexually abusing and killing Jetseta. He is serving two life prison terms without parole.
Berry received a U.S. Justice Department Director’s Award for Superior Performance for his work on the James Bentley case.
Before coming to Iowa, Berry served 10 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, where he was chief of the Major Frauds Section.
Berry spent two years as a civil litigator with a Los Angeles law firm before becoming a federal prosecutor. He graduated in 1987 from Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, Ill., and received his undergraduate degree in 1982 from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Berry isn’t new to this temporary leadership role. He was named acting U.S. attorney in 2017 after Kevin Techau was asked to step down and before former President Donald Trump appointed, and the U.S. Senate confirmed, U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr. to the position.
Berry declined to comment on his appointment.
All but two of the 93 U.S. attorneys appointed by Trump were asked to resign after President Joe Biden took office. Deegan retired last February and joined a Chicago law firm.
U.S. Attorney Marc Krickbaum of the Southern District of Iowa, also appointed by Trump, resigned a month before. Richard Westphal then was appointed to serve until a presidential appointment is made.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Morfitt said after 120 days of Berry’s appointment, made Dec. 13, a district judge can appoint a U.S. attorney to serve until a presidential appointment is made. Appointments made by the U.S. attorney general or judges aren’t unusual this year because there are many federal districts without presidential appointments.
Only 37 nominations have been made as of December throughout all the federal districts, and 31 have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate, according to media reports.
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