By RICK HAYES
---- — MT. VERNON — An Iowa man accused of two vehicle carjackings earlier this year entered a negotiated guilty plea in Jefferson Circuit Court on Tuesday, and has been sentenced to 20 years to the Illinois Department of Corrections.The plea was entered on behalf of David J. Pederson, 55, of Ames, Iowa, who was represented by Public Defender Sean Featherstun, and accepted by Judge Barry Vaughan.Pederson pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated vehicular hijacking, both Class X felonies. The prison terms will be served concurrently, followed by three years' mandatory supervised release. He was also ordered to pay court costs, although Vaughan indicated it may be waived. According to court room attorneys, Pederson will have to serve 85 percent of his sentence, and will be given day-to-day credit. Four other charges were dismissed by the state in return for the guilty plea.According to court documents, on March 26 Pederson forced his way into two different vehicles while armed with a pellet gun that resembled a semiautomatic handgun. Pederson approached a vehicle occupied by a female driver in the parking lot of the west side McDonald's, and made the driver take him to the nearby Kohl's parking lot. He bound her thumbs with a zip-tie. He took her debit card and told her to drive to a service station on 44th Street. During the stop, the victim managed to free herself and pepper-sprayed the defendant.Pederson then forced his way into a van occupied by a female driver and her two teenage children. They then drove down Wells Bypass until Pederson let them exit the vehicle near the NAPA Distribution Center. Pederson then drove away and was later arrested at a Nashville (Illinois) service station by local police. It was revealed in court police confiscated a mesh bag belonging to Pederson and police secured the pellet gun used in the highjackings.During the investigation, it was determined Pederson had just been released from the Marion Federal Prison where he was serving a sentence for bank robbery. He was released to travel to a halfway house in Iowa to serve out the remainder of his sentence."I'm very pleased we were able to promptly send this person back to prison where he belongs for a very long time," State's Attorney Doug Hoffman said. "We want to recognize the hard work of the Mt. Vernon Police Department in bringing this man to justice."Hoffman said local officials initially considered bringing federal charges against Pederson, but following discussions with federal officials, it was decided to prosecute the case locally. "He still could face possible federal charges of escape since he was on furlough at the time these crimes were committed," Hoffman added.
Pederson will be processed at Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro, where IDOC officials will decide where Pederson will serve his prison sentence.