Posted by Paul Callighan on Aug 21, 2019
The August 21st Sycamore Rotary speaker, Circuit Court Associate Judge Joseph Pedersen, says he was already familiar with the DeKalb County Courthouse and many of its practicing attorneys when he started his new job the first of the month.  That’s because he spent half a dozen years as an Assistant State’s Attorney in DeKalb County before serving 17 years as a federal prosecutor in the Rockford Office of the U. S. Attorney for Northern Illinois.  Pedersen is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and received his law degree from the University of Iowa.  He and his wife, Liz, live in Malta.
Pedersen was the federal attorney who prosecuted the case of Rita Crundwell, the Dixon city treasurer who was found guilty of embezzling $53 million over more than two decades, in what was the largest municipal fraud in history.  Pedersen said he was given the case because he had an accounting background but his superiors originally thought it involved smaller amounts of money over a shorter timeframe.  Pedersen said that ironically it was Crundwell’s own detailed record keeping that led to the full realization of what she did.  Crundwell ultimately pleaded guilty and is serving a 20-year prison sentence.  The City of Dixon ultimately received reimbursements from its bank, accounting firms, and the sale of Crundwell’s assets that made up for much of the embezzled funds.
Pedersen said he had remained active in the local bar association and praised the professionalism and cooperation among local attorneys which made seeking the appointment of judge so attractive.  He said the biggest change in the job is balancing the views of opposing attorneys where his prior role had him as the advocate for only one side.  When taking questions, he noted that the bail reform laws have made a level playing field for whether one is incarcerated or not while awaiting trial rather than a function of whether someone arrested is able to find cash to bond out.  He also reminded the audience that jury duty is one of the critical protections of one’s rights since it is a person’s peers who determine guilt or innocence of a crime, not a single individual.