CEDAR RAPIDS — In a continuing effort to combat drug crimes in Linn County and Eastern Iowa, the U.S. Attorney’s Office this week added a special assistant prosecutor who, with the help of a federal grant, will focus on illegal drug trafficking.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Dillan Edwards was hired for the new position. He graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law in 2018 and then worked as a law clerk for a judge in the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
Edwards’ salary of over $61,000 will be paid by the county through a federal grant under the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan of the Northern District of Iowa said Wednesday. There is no added expense to the county or county attorney’s office, he said.
The Linn County Board of Supervisors approved the agreement Wednesday between the county, County Attorney’s Office and U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The drug enforcement program is run by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The program provides assistance to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies that operate in areas deemed as critical drug trafficking regions, according to the trafficking program.
As of 2018, there are 29 designated programs across all 50 states, the District Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Deegan said the program’s mission is to eliminate or reduce drug trafficking and its “harmful consequences in critical regions of the United States.”
“We appreciate the close working relationship we have with the Linn County Attorney’s office through this program as we continue in our efforts to combat drug trafficking and the opioid epidemic,” he said.
Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said it’s fortunate for Linn to be one of only eight counties in the state to have this trafficking program. The others are Black Hawk, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Pottawattamie, Scott and Woodbury.
“Through their efforts, we have been able to identify and prosecute large-scale drug dealers who might otherwise go undetected,” Vander Sanden said. The program also has helped reduce the number of people harmed by the opioid epidemic.
Most of the serious drug and drug-related crimes — which include firearm violations — are referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office because it has more resources and can seek stiffer penalties.
Deegan told The Gazette last year that under sentencing guidelines, methamphetamine cases result in harsher penalties than other types of drug crimes such as those involving marijuana. And most of the federal drug cases in this district and Iowa often involve meth, he said.
Another factor that contributes to the length of a sentence is the defendant’s criminal history, Deegan said, which has a larger impact under federal court guidelines.
Many of the drug crimes involve firearms, which also are referred to federal prosecutors because the federal laws are more stringent.
Deegan made gun prosecutions a top priority and last year added two attorneys to focus on violent crimes.
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