CEDAR RAPIDS — Federal prosecutors are making good on their promise to prioritize gun crimes in Eastern Iowa, announcing Tuesday they’ve charged 32 individuals since March.
U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan, during a news conference, pointed to a February 2017 “drug deal gone bad” that resulted in the death of 20-year-old Dylan Plotz of Cedar Rapids, to highlight how his office, along with law enforcement partners, are pursuing the most dangerous offenders and those who “simply have no business possessing guns.”
“It’s a top priority for the Department of Justice and for our office,” Deegan said.
The five defendants, convicted of federal drugs and firearms charges in the marijuana robbery that ended in the fatal shooting of Plotz, who planned the robbery with two others, were all sentenced Monday to six or more years in prison.
Deegan told The Gazette last month that crimes like that one and the recent double homicide in Cedar Rapids, where two teens were fatally shot and two other teens were seriously injured, are why the gun cases take priority, and the reason two new assistant U.S. attorneys were hired last year to focus on violent crimes.
Matrell Johnson and Royal Abram, both 18, were fatally shot in the parking lot of the Iowa Smoke Shop at 70 Kirkwood Court SW about 1:20 a.m. May 18. Two others — a man and woman, both 19 — had life-threatening gunshot wounds.
Andre Richardson, 26, of Cedar Rapids, was arrested earlier this month for the deadly shooting. He is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, attempted murder, willful injury causing serious injury, and one count each of intimidation with a weapon, felon in possession of a firearm and going armed with intent.
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Last month, Deegan pointed out the number of gun crimes charged by his office have steadily increased since 2016, going from 90 charged offenses to 166 in 2018. He expects that number to increase again this year.
Deegan and other assistant U.S. attorneys were joined at the news conference by law enforcement officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI, Cedar Rapids and Dubuque police and the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.
The 32 people charged since March face various charges, including being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm. Prohibited persons are felons, drug users and domestic abusers, who are not allowed, under federal law, to possess firearms and ammunition.
Deegan said 26 people also have been arrested on gun-related charges in the last 90 days and are being prosecuted in the Sioux City office, which is part of the Northern District of Iowa.
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