MADISON, Wisc. — A federal judge on Friday conditionally accepted a plea deal from a former Altoona School District Superintendent accused of having pornography of a 17-year-old victim.
It was a crowded courtroom in Madison as Dan Peggs pleaded guilty to having the pornography. In exchange, more serious charges of sex trafficking and producing child pornography were dismissed.
“Some might see this as a loss because he is not facing all of the charges, but he is being held accountable, and I think that is something and better than nothing,” human trafficking case manager Kenzie B. “I think it was important to be here today because this affects our community; this affects our area that I serve, the people I work with, and no one should have to go through what this victim went through”
She said that the plea will prevent the victim from having to endure a trial.
“It gives the victim the opportunity to move forward and on with their life, and not have to continue to re-live this experience over and over again like they would have to in a trial.”
Under oath, Peggs admitted to receiving a pornographic image from a 17-year-old he had been seeing; however, he said he didn’t know she was underage. He did say he kept the image once he learned the truth.
His story does not match that of the victim who sent a letter to the judge saying Peggs knew her age the entire time.
Ahead of the plea hearing, Joe Bugni, an attorney for Peggs, wrote the judge with concern about social media posts from Peggs’ ex-wife, Ashley, that led to 25 people sending letters to the court sharing how they have been impacted by this case. Bugni said Ashley had “no right to act as a victim of Peggs’ crime.”
In response, Ashley wrote to the judge saying the attorney’s letter left her “physically sick.”
“I reflect on the students and staff that invested trust in him as a prominent ‘safe’ figure in the school, and I look at my four girls’ faces each day and my heart breaks for the impact this has and will continue to have on them,” she wrote.
Addressing the court Friday, the judge said he encourages the letters and plans to read every one of them.
“To me, the defense, all they did was create some distraction, but the judge wasn’t allowing that today so that was great,” John Pulley of Fierce Freedom said. “Our community is fantastic and has been tremendous. So to see so many there to support victims and families and see justice served, it was just so encouraging.”
Fierce Freedom is an organization focused on fighting human trafficking.
With his guilty plea, Peggs faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for mid November, and Peggs will remain released on several conditions until the hearing.