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Press Release

Department of Justice Commemorates National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA       – The Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime (“OVC”) and the United States Attorney Offices for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa will join communities nationwide in observing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and celebrating victims’ rights, protections and services. This year’s observance takes place April 19-25 and features the theme, “Seek Justice| Ensure Victims' Rights | Inspire Hope.”

“Every year, millions of Americans suffer the shock and trauma of criminal victimization, affecting their well-being and sense of security and dignity,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.  “To these victims, we affirm our unwavering commitment to supporting them in their hour of need.  We also commend the thousands of victim advocates and public safety professionals who labor tirelessly to secure victims’ rights and support survivors.”

“While we have made tremendous progress driving down crime and violence across the country, far too many Americans continue to suffer the pain and loss of criminal victimization,” said Katharine T. Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs, which oversees OVC. “This week, we stand by these survivors and their families, and we pledge our ongoing support to the countless men and women who serve them with such extraordinary skill and compassion.”

In Iowa, United States Attorneys Peter Deegan and Marc Krickbaum announced winners for two awards based on their service to victims in Iowa.  In the Northern District of Iowa, the following two awards were announced:

  • The Law Enforcement Victim Services Award is presented to Investigator Matthew Denlinger from the Cedar Rapids Police Department.  This award is presented to law enforcement officers in Iowa who go beyond the call of duty to help crime victims.  It is the highest federal honor in Iowa for victim services by a law enforcement officer.  Investigator Denlinger showed dedication to victims while investigating the 1979 murder of Michelle Martinko.  In addition to completing an exhaustive investigation, Investigator Denlinger showed great compassion for the victim’s family, ensuring they never lost hope that the guilty party would be brought to justice.  Investigator Denlinger’s thorough investigation and his conscientious dedication to the victim resulted in the 1st Degree Murder conviction of Jerry Burns.
  • The Award for Excellence in Victim Services is presented to Anastasia Basquin, Nick Maybanks, and Michael Harris from the Linn County Attorney’s Office.  This team showed great compassion to Michelle Martinko’s family during the 1st Degree Murder prosecution of her killer, Jerry Burns.  Not only did they thoroughly prepare a convincing case to ensure that a murderer was brought to justice, they thought about the victim and her family every step of the way.  Because of their dedication, compassion, and hard work, a murderer will spend the rest of his life in prison.

“After so many years, Investigator Denlinger and the team at the Linn County Attorney’s Office brought a measure of justice to Michelle Martinko and her family,” said United States Attorney Deegan.  “In doing so, they demonstrated they are true public servants and steadfast champions for victims of violent crime.”


In the Southern District of Iowa, the following two awards were announced:

  • The Law Enforcement Victim Services Award is presented to Special Agent Jason Pessman with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in Davenport, Iowa; and the Iowa City Human Trafficking Force consisting of: Detective David Gonzales, Iowa City Police Department; Detective Mike Smithy, Iowa City Police Department; Detective Andy Rich, Iowa City Police Department; Detective Jennifer Clarahan, Iowa City Police Department; Special Agent Jagat Sandu, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation; Detective Hanna Dvorak, Coralville Police Department; and Sergeant Katrina Rudish, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.
    Special Agent Pessman demonstrated extraordinary dedication to victims though his work on the Chad Eric Mink case in the Southern District of Iowa. Special Agent Pessman investigated Mink for over three years, resulting in a 600 month sentence for Mink, who was convicted of interstate domestic violence, stalking, explosives, and witness tampering offenses following a two week jury trial. Special Agent Pessman exemplified professionalism, compassion, understanding and respectfulness in working with the victim and her family through the investigation and subsequent prosecution.
    The Iowa City Human Trafficking Task Force worked tirelessly to serve and protect victims, including child victims, of human trafficking, resulting in the successful prosecution of Kendall Streb, along with five other defendants, for sex trafficking and related offenses in the Southern District of Iowa. The entire team worked together to develop relationships with reluctant victims, putting in endless hours to connect the victims with needed services, such as counseling, legal services, and financial assistance for school supplies and utilities. The compassion for and dedication to the victims in this case was extraordinary.
  • The award for Excellence in Victim Services is awarded to Roberta Cruz, Victim/Witness Liaison at the Polk County Attorney’s Office.
    Ms. Cruz has, for the past eight years, served victims of Polk County in an exemplary manner. She works primarily with victims of domestic abuse, however, as she is fluent in English and Spanish, she assists in communicating with Spanish speaking victims and witnesses. She serves as a voice for victims, explaining the criminal justice system and providing valuable resources to struggling victims of crime. Recently, Ms. Cruz, upon learning that an arson victim had lost all her belongings, collected gently used clothing in the victim’s size for her to begin to rebuild her life. Ms. Cruz works tirelessly to provide each victim with the support he or she needs throughout the criminal justice process. 

“These awards recognized three exceptional recipients in the Southern District of Iowa. First, the Iowa City Human Trafficking Task Force is an amazing group,” said United States Attorney Krickbaum. “They recognized the scourge of human trafficking in their community, pooled resources from multiple local and state agencies, and collectively built the largest human trafficking investigation and prosecution ever in Iowa. Second, Special Agent Pessman brought justice to a violent stalker who terrorized a woman in Eastern Iowa for years. Agent Pessman investigated the defendant’s crime relentlessly, and showed the victim great compassion, renewing her faith in law enforcement. Finally, every day, and in very challenging circumstances, Roberta Cruz assists crime victims at the Polk County Attorney’s Office, particularly victims of domestic violence. She does so with patience, generosity, and humanity. All of these recipients have distinguished themselves by reaching out to help victims who others have previously ignored. We thank them sincerely.”

Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first Victims’ Rights Week in 1981, putting crime victims' rights, needs and concerns in a prominent spot on the American agenda. He also established the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, which laid the groundwork for a national network of services and legal safeguards for crime victims. President Trump and his administration have implemented historic levels of support for victim assistance and victim compensation.

Some 3.3 million Americans age 12 and older were victims of violent crime in 2018, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. The Office for Victims of Crime, part of the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, supports more than 7,000 local victim assistance programs and victim compensation programs in every state and U.S. territory. Funds for these programs come from the Crime Victims Fund, which is made up of federal criminal fines, penalties and bond forfeitures.

During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, victim advocacy organizations, community groups and state, local and tribal agencies traditionally host rallies, candlelight vigils and other events to raise awareness of victims’ rights and services. This year, many communities are organizing virtual gatherings and online public awareness campaigns.

This year’s commemoration began yesterday, 25 years to the day when a truck bomb exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, taking the lives of 168 people, including 19 children, as well as injuring hundreds of others.  The mass murder remains the worst act of domestic terrorism in our nation’s history and led to the establishment of the Antiterrorism Emergency Reserve, which is administered by OVC, and has been used to provide direct services to hundreds of victims of mass violence and terrorism.

“Crime victims deserve to know that they have the encouragement and support of the American people,” said OVC Director Jessica E. Hart. “I hope that citizens throughout the nation will take the opportunity this week to remember all victims of crime and their heroic stories of survival. I encourage everyone to also find meaningful ways to express their appreciation to the many committed and compassionate service providers across the country who work tirelessly supporting these survivors.”

This year, the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony will be postponed until a time when we can honor this year’s award recipients in person.  During the ceremony, OVC will present awards recognizing individuals and organizations from across the nation for their outstanding service on behalf of crime victims.  The awardees will be selected from public nominations in 11 categories, including federal service, special courage, public policy, and victim services.  Visit to learn more about past recipients.

For more information on how to create your own public campaigns to raise awareness about crime victims’ rights online and at events throughout the year, please visit:

Updated April 21, 2020

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