116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - His recent Senate confirmation as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa is a 'dream job” that Peter Deegan Jr. said he thought about since his days as a law clerk for a federal judge in Michigan.
'I really wanted to practice federal law,” he said last week during an interview from his new office at the U.S. District Courthouse in Cedar Rapids. 'I considered state court but I knew assistant U.S. attorneys are held to that higher standard, and your clients are the people of the United States. It's busy and demanding … exciting work.”
Deegan, 47, of Cedar Rapids, never considered another profession and has been a prosecutor for 19 years. He grew up in a family of lawyers. His grandfather, father and uncle - all lawyers, and then judges. All were also prosecutors, except his grandfather. Deegan even had some in-laws in the legal profession.
'The biggest reason I got into it was the public service,” he said. 'I used to go watch my father and he enjoyed the work. It was noble and fulfilling.”
Deegan received his bachelor's degree in 1992 from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and then his law degree at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit in 1995.
His career started as that law clerk in Michigan. Then he worked a year at a Chicago law firm before becoming a special assistant U.S. attorney in 1998 out of Sioux City. Deegan then was an assistant in the Cedar Rapids office for a four years, then spent two years as an assistant in Michigan, and came back to the Cedar Rapids office in 2006.
He has been the district's criminal chief since 2015. In that role, he oversaw all the criminal work in the office. The chief is responsible for case intake, assignments and most case disposition decisions.
'It allowed me to be involved in a full variety of federal criminal cases,” Deegan said. 'After several years working complex white collar cases, I enjoyed the opportunity to reengage in narcotics and violent crime cases.”
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Berry, who has worked with Deegan since 1999, pointed out that Deegan successfully prosecuted many of the most high-profile and complex cases in the district. As chief of the criminal division, he demonstrated an ability to listen to others before making decisions.
Brad Haverback, a financial adviser with World Trend Financial in Cedar Rapids and a friend of Deegan's, agreed, saying he has served on many boards with Deegan over the years and Deegan routinely listens and collaborates with others in making decisions or resolving problems.
'He's honest, humble and a genuine person,” Haverback said.
First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks said that 'it's very rewarding to see someone from the trenches of the criminal justice system like Pete get the nod for such an important position and a job that he truly deserves.”
Maybanks works with the U.S. Attorney's Office on guns and sex crime cases because federal laws have higher penalties than state laws on these crimes. County prosecutors partner with federal authorities to get the best outcomes.
Maybanks said he looks forward to continuing that partnership under Deegan's leadership.
Berry served as acting U.S. Attorney before former U.S. Attorney Kevin Techau was appointed in 2014 and after he was dismissed by President Donald Trump in March, along with 45 other federal prosecutors who had been appointed by President Barack Obama.
Deegan is the first appointment from within the office and with this level of trial experience since U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose was appointed in 2009.
She was an assistant U.S. attorney in the northern district from 1999 to 2009 and served as U.S. Attorney until 2012 when she was appointed to the bench.
Deegan didn't want to talk much about prosecuting some of the most high profile cases in the district, but he noted one of the more complex cases he prosecuted was against Russell Wassendorf Sr., 68, former chief executive of Peregrine Financial Group in Cedar Falls. Wassendorf was sentenced to 50 years in prison for stealing more than $215 million from customer funds over nearly 20 years.
There were over 13,000 victims and many regulatory rules and agencies involved in the case.
Another of Deegan's cases involved a salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands nationwide in 2010.
Peter DeCoster, 53, of Clarion, and his father, Austin 'Jack” DeCoster, 83, of Turner, Maine, owners of egg companies involved in the outbreak, were convicted of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. DeCoster-owned or affiliated companies recalled 550 million eggs.
Both men received three months in prison and a year probation and were ordered to jointly pay $83,000 in restitution.
Deegan said he would miss the hands-on trial work but was ready for a new challenge, and will now head up the decision-making of the office going forward.
He will oversee a staff of 47 employees, including 26 lawyers and 21 support staff.
The district includes 52 counties in Iowa, with headquarters in Cedar Rapids and a branch office in Sioux City.
His main goal is to support the attorneys and other staff in the office, but he said he couldn't share any specific goals for the office yet. He said he was going to be 'evaluating and listening” to his staff before making any changes.
Deegan praised his 'bright and experienced” staff, saying there is such a 'high level of professionalism, and they take pride in their work and are dedicated to public service.”
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