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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Iowa Supreme Court’s Attorney Discipline Board has admonished former Cedar County Attorney Jeff Renander for ethical misconduct based on allegations he was too lenient with people charged with sexual assault, among other breaches of professional conduct.
Renander, who served as top prosecutor in Cedar County since 2010, retired from the County Attorney’s Office in March and relinquished his license.
Complaints were filed against him by a group of Cedar County sheriff’s deputies and Tipton police officers.
Tara M. van Brederode, director of attorney discipline for the Iowa Supreme Court, said in a letter to the deputies last month that the board agreed.
“The board’s investigation supports a determination, bolstered by the combined observations and evidence from multiple complainants, other witnesses and the Court, that respondent’s conduct violated Iowa (rules for professional conduct),” van Brederode wrote in the April 8 letter to Cedar County Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Knoche, one of 13 Cedar County deputies who filed a complaint Feb. 20, 2020.
The Attorney Discipline Board found Renander violated code sections on misconduct by “improperly or inadequately charging and prosecuting sexual assault cases and, in at least one case, failing to explain the victim’s attacker’s plea terms,” the letter states.
Renander also violated standards on competence and/or diligence, the letter states, for “lack of thoroughness and preparedness necessary for prosecutions.”
Renander misused court resources by assembling juries when he wasn’t ready to try cases, van Brederode wrote.
The deputies took the unusual step in 2020 of voting no-confidence in Renander and filed a complaint with the state, The Gazette reported.
The Tipton Police Department filed a similar complaint.
The county complaint alleged Renander made inappropriate comments to a victim of sexual abuse, blaming her for the assault, and minimized the impact of sexual abuse on multiple victims, including children.
In one case, a Muscatine man admitted he’d performed sex acts on a woman while she was intoxicated, but Renander lowered the charge from felony sex abuse to assault causing bodily injury, which carried just one year in jail and did not require the defendant to register as a sex offender, The Gazette reported.
“There had been a lot of frustration for years with him,” Deputy Matt Jackson said Friday.
“How would I feel if I was victimized and the person who is supposed to be representing me can’t remember my name? When he’s got his caseload mixed up, referencing details from a whole other case what that reflects is a lack of preparation and care.”
Renander, a Republican, was elected as County Attorney in 2010 after serving as an assistant in the office. Attempts to reach him by phone Friday were unsuccessful.
The letter notes Renander felt the investigation focused too much on one case that didn’t represent his whole career. The board disagreed, saying some of Renander’s correspondence after the complaint indicated he conceded ”his sex abuse prosecutions were ‘failing’ and that improvements were needed.“
Jackson and his fellow deputies were glad to see the decision — even if it took more than two years.
“It did go somewhere and ultimately we got a resolution,” he said.
The deputies have great confidence in Adam Blank, the new acting Cedar County Attorney, and his staff, Jackson said. “What’s important is that we get to turn the page now,” he said. “That’s what we were looking for the whole time.”
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