Sholom Rubashkin Gets 27-Year Jail Sentence

Cross-posted to heebnvegan

Today it was announced that tomorrow, former AgriProcessors executive Sholom Rubashkin will be sentenced to 27 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $30 million in restitution. In November, Rubashkin was found guilty on 86 of 91 federal charges related to financial fraud. Although an appeal is likely and the trial of at least one more AgriProcessors defendant has yet to start, I’d like to think of this sentencing as at least a temporary end to a long-running scandal that has divided the Jewish community.

Formerly the world’s largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse, AgriProcessors had previously been notorious for cruelty to animals, environmental devastation, and labor woes. But in May 2008, the company’s absolute demise began when its primary slaughterhouse in Iowa was raided by more than a dozen government agencies. AgriProcessors later stopped production to a large extent, declared bankruptcy, and got bought by another company. Rubashkin faced 72 immigration-related charges in a separate trial that was supposed to follow the one that ended in November, but federal prosecutors dropped those charges, apparently because they were satisfied with the verdict in the first trial and didn’t think there was much to gain from expending vast resources on a second. Rubashkin was also one of several defendants from AgriProcessors originally charged with 9,311 violations of Iowa child labor laws; many of those charges were later dropped or consolidated, and earlier this month, Rubashkin was found not guilty on all 67 state charges that he ultimately faced. That verdict does not exactly clear the company of any wrongdoing, though. As Failed Messiah reflected, “Rubashkin’s defense team pointed their collective finger at Heshy Rubashkin, who like his brother Sholom was an Agriprocessors VP. Does it make you feel any better about Agriprocessors labor practices if the documented abuses are Heshy’s fault rather than Sholom’s?”

This saga has caused pain for so many. It has caused great hardship for the Rubashkin family, and by many accounts, Rubashkin was a great contributor to the Jewish community in his personal life. Animals were treated inhumanely in a manner that had already been uncovered and supposedly stopped. The community of Postville, Iowa, was economically devastated, and many former AgriProcessors employees and their families suffered tremendously. When the second federal trial was nixed, it meant that “workers, who for over a year have been prevented by the government from returning home, will not have the long-awaited opportunity to tell their story and seek justice through the trial on immigration charges of Sholom Rubashkin,” as a letter from Iowa clergy put it. Their struggle was prolonged for naught.

The whole ordeal has galvanized numerous factions within the Jewish community. The publicity generated by the scandal helped pave the way for Magen Tzedek and Uri L’Tzedek to develop seals for ethical treatment of workers. Many Orthodox supporters of Rubashkin seemingly refused to consider the facts of the cases and insisted that prosecutors and critics were acting out of anti-Semitism and unfairly targeting Rubashkin and AgriProcessors. As just one example, at least 15,000 people reportedly “attended” a rally for Rubashkin either online or in person earlier this month. When the jury found Rubashkin not guilty in the state trial, some in the Orthodox community were outraged that Jewish groups had doubted Rubashkin’s supposed innocence and demanded an apology, as though Rubashkin had been totally vindicated and there were no other parts of the story.

As I noted as part of my High Holidays reflection before Rubashkin’s trials began, I struggled with this ordeal as a Jew. I loathed AgriProcessors for the alleged crimes that had been committed, but I also realized that hoping for a man’s downfall and suffering was not a righteous position to take. In a heebnvegan post on September 19, I concluded, “I hope that Rubashkin receives justice, both from the U.S. court system and, ultimately, from Hashem—nothing more and nothing less.”

Now that “the results are in,” I leave the last word to Magen Tzedek, which issued the following statement in November:

The news out of Sioux Falls, SD, yesterday, that Sholom Rubashkin was convicted on 86 out of 91 counts … delivers both justice and a heavy heart to those of us who champion the cause of ethical kashrut. . . .

There is neither joy nor a sense of schadenfreude in yesterday’s conviction. Those of us who toil in the field of tikkun olam are downright demoralized by this highly preventable outcome. This story could have ended very differently.

Failed Messiah was a secondary source for much of the information in this post and was a leading secondary source of information for anyone looking to keep a close watch on this developing story over the last few years.

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16 Responses to “Sholom Rubashkin Gets 27-Year Jail Sentence”

  1. rachel krengel Says:

    i was somewhat confused by your post. on the one hand, it seems to indicate that you are a practicing Jew who cares about the Torah and the Jewish people, and on the other hand, your twisted point of view and total lack of ‘benefit of the doubt’ and ‘kol yisrael areivim’, (you can look up the translation if you don’t know it, apparently you don’t)indicates that you are no better and even worse than many anti-Semites out there.it does not show you in a complimentary light that you swallow the whole story of ‘cruelty to animals,environmental devastation…’paraded around by the media. Perhaps you would do well to reflect, as part of your ‘High Holidays’ preparation next time around, on the serious flaws in the character of a person who ‘loathe(s)Agriprocessors’and its fellow Jewish owners based on the word of Non-Jews with an agenda. it is not only ‘not righteous’to wish for a fellow Jew’s downfall, it is actually the sort of cruelty that should be beyond any self-respecting Jew. and as i’m sure you’ve heard, it’s people like you, who have deep-seated sinas chinam (alleged cruelty to animals is NOT sufficient reason to hate a Jewish brother)who are preventing the geulah.

  2. Claudia Roberts Says:

    Ok Rachel,
    Take a step back. Here is the deal, I am an orthodox jew. very frum and I live in a city that has recently seen a lot of stealing from the US government by frumme yidden who are indignant that they have to serve jail time, cause its only the US Government after all, so its not really stealing, or so these very big gavirim believe.

    Bottom line, break the law get caught have a fair trial, go to jail period.

    The 27 years is steep, but neither you nor I know the sentencing regulations.

    My message to you rachel, stick to the subject. When you attack the person your position is weakend. I neither judge nor have a tynah against the Rubashkin Family. He was accused, tried, and found guilty period end of story…. on to jail.

  3. Av Says:

    If you are using Failed Messiah (FM) as your primary or even secondary source – you tragically misinformed. Why don’t you try & read some the many legal inconsistancies that revolve around Judge Linda Reade and the trial.FM has an axe to grind with Chabad in general and Rubashkin in particular – definately not a neutral source of information. Sad for you to fall into FM’s hatred and twists on facts.

  4. Chanele Says:

    To # 2, Claudia Roberts:
    The problem is that the trial was not a fair one.

  5. Michael Croland Says:

    Av, yes, Failed Messiah has an agenda, as many blogs do, and in relying on information from that blog, you have to consider that. The only time in my post I quoted from its blogger’s opinion as a primary source is where I explicitly say that “Failed Messiah reflected” it — and I agree with that one particular opinion.

    That being said, Failed Messiah has done a terrific job of being a secondary source — i.e., providing links to and excerpts from numerous primary sources, including legal documents, mainstream Iowa media, online frum sources, and the Magen Tzedek statement. I refuse to see that information as somehow less than legitimate just because of the filter through which I came into contact with some (certainly not all) of it. Still, I acknowledge that people have their own opinions about Failed Messiah and that the blog does have its own slant, which is why I included the blurb at the bottom; at least you know where I’m coming from.

  6. Michael Adler Says:

    This was an attack on kosher slaughter. Have you any proof from a credible source that animals were treated inhumanely? Besides that this whole show trial had noting to do with the actual plant but rather “bank fraud” from a bank that got paid one has to conclude that this was nothing more than a witch hunt. Started be PETA nuts, continued by the usual self hating jews and unions who were not able to shake him down. Just for your information, when all is said & done our enemies will throw us all into the same gas chamber if they have the chance, you (the useful idiot) first! This is an attempt to bring the Neurenberg laws to the U.S.A.? do you in all of your textbook spitting brilliance know what the first law was?

  7. Michael Croland Says:

    Michael Adler,

    “Have you any proof from a credible source that animals were treated inhumanely?”
    Besides seeing the video footage with my own two eyes, I’m going by what the USDA declared — that AgriProcessors employees “engaged in inhumane slaughter of cattle” (pg. 4 of the PDF).

    “do you in all of your textbook spitting brilliance know what the first law was?”
    I think you’re asking for clarification about what the charges were in the federal trial re financial fraud. See my previous commentary here: http://heebnvegan.blogspot.com.....trial.html .

  8. Michael Adler Says:

    Nice try but the USDA actually said that there were minor violations that they demanded be fixed as well as assigning 26 inspectors full time to the plant. If they were incompetent it is their problem. Plus the Orthodox Union (who I am sure you despise) had also gone down there since the meat would be non kosher if there is even a nick in the blade let alone other suffering caused. They recommended that cattle prodding be stopped and it was. When you cater to a specific market you better adhere to the standards or else no one will buy your product!
    As far as all of the “egregious” treatment of everyone- well it was never proven just believed by anti semites and various self hating jews. As usual no answer about what the first neurenberg law was. Not that I expected anything less.

  9. yosef Says:

    The do gooder liberal jewish media such as the forward and the do gooder liberal jewish groups such as magen tzedek, have played a similar role in this case, as the one the cappos and the judenratt played in Nazi Germany. The self destructive capablities of the jewish community are simply astounding. Had it not been for the misplaced zeal to hound the rubashkin family conducted by a very unholy alliance of secular Liberal Jews together with a clearly antisemitic leaning prosecution, judge and jury, combined with the unions, Peta, and the state and federal government, the reality on the ground in Iowa would have been a very different one. It is utterly disgusting to have Jews who could care less about kosher, who eat anything under the sun and prevert the interpretation of what kosher actually means to fit their own demented liberal view of the world, come and preach to the orthodox Jewish community how they should certify Kashrut, shame on them. I would not have expected any better from the government, or the unions, or Peta, but I would have expected better from the so called liberal jewish community. Their sin is unforgivable and the blood of the Rubashkin family is on their hands and their conscience Until the day he is released and beyond.

  10. Frederic C. Schultz Says:

    Look, on the basic issue of what his crimes, and they are financial crimes of deceit, deserve: no more than a few years. Anything more is a live sentence. He’s already served a long time, so another year or two would suffice. That would enable him to pay the $31 million fine, which he can’t if he’s in jail. As to the issue of ethical kashrut, killing animals without pain, and not exploiting workers, all Jews (and all people) should support these efforts, as they have been a basic part of our religion from day one. Echad means one. We hurt when the animal hurts, or the worker is overworked or exploited. He was found not guilty of those charges (relating to the workers), though, so in the end he is getting jail for defrauding a bank: a very stupid thing to do, no matter how much defrauding banks have done! As to the bigger issue, of farmed, unhappy, hormone-filled animals: I have no idea how this meat is still called kosher. Free-range, organic, and happy should be the rule for kosher. And workers should never be exploited, ever. I do think a life sentence is outrageous, and reeks of hatred of Jews. But he should never have tried to defraud the banks, especially when the magnifying glass was on him. I can’t imagine what he was thinking. I do pray he is released soon so he can do tikun olam and mitzvot (and pay the $31 million!) for the rest of his life. Life in jail should be reserved for the worst of the worst crimes like murder and rape. What he did was employ illegal immigrants, something probably one half of all employers do. But he was acquitted by the jury of any knowledge of illegal immigrants working for him. Really, he should be freed very soon, after a year or two tops in jail. Life in jail just does not match the crime, and will not allow him to pay the huge fine either. I suspect Jew-hatred here. I pray the judge changes her mind and shows some compassion, or is reversed on appeal. Free Sholom!

  11. shmuel Says:

    Michael: Not that you have an agenda or anything. The hyperlink notwithstanding, why is the phrase “9,311 violations” highlighted in red (which in actuality represented thirty or so alleged underaged workers for a period of 30 days x multiple daily violations per underage employee) yet the final number of counts submitted for trial (67) and the acquittal in toto following a trial are buried in the text?

    Can anyone spell S E N S A T I O N A L I S M?

  12. Michael Croland Says:

    Shmuel, “9,311 violations” is underlined and in a different color because it’s a link. There’s no extra formatting or emphasis besides creating a link. Why is it a link when the other numbers aren’t? I think that an unusually high number (in the context of the others) begs for further explanation (in your comment, you also thought it warranted further explanation, rather than just writing the number on its own), which is why I linked to my previous commentary on the subject matter.

  13. Michael Croland Says:

    Frederic, you said, “We hurt when … the worker is overworked or exploited. He was found not guilty of those charges (relating to the workers), though.”

    It is untrue that Sholom Rubashkin was “found not guilty” of the federal immigration-related charges. They were dismissed conditionally in November, and they could still be reinstated at a later date. Prosecutors’ request for dismissal stated (http://tinyurl.com/ydsut7x):

    “According to the government’s calculation of the sentencing guidelines, due in large part to the amount of loss associated with defendant’s fraud and false statement convictions, any convictions with regard to Counts 1 through 72 [i.e., the 72 federal immigration-related charges] would be entirely eclipsed by defendant’s recommended guideline sentence on the counts for which he has already been convicted. This is not to minimize the importance of those counts, but at least for the purposes of the advisory sentencing guideline range, any convictions on Counts 1 through 72 would have no impact upon defendant’s sentence. However, any evidence of immigration violations would be relevant conduct that the Court could consider at sentencing even without a second trial.

    In the government’s estimation, now that defendant has been convicted on the most serious offenses charged in the pending indictment (in terms of potential penalties), and given that a jury has determined defendant committed crimes by making false statements about the harboring of undocumented aliens at Agriprocessors, Inc., and his knowledge of undocumented workers at Agriprocessors, Inc., dismissal without prejudice of Counts 1 through 72 and the forfeiture allegation is the most appropriate and efficient manner in which to proceed in this case. Dismissal will avoid an extended and expensive trial, conserve limited judicial and prosecutorial resources, and lessen the inconvenience to witnesses. The public interest has been substantially served because of the convictions and jury findings noted above. The government asks that such dismissal be without prejudice so criminal charges and the forfeiture allegation could be reinitiated based upon a change in circumstances or a reevaluation of present circumstances.”

  14. Michael Croland Says:

    Michael Adler,

    Re further evidence about inhumane treatment of animals
    I’ll post about this separately, hopefully later tonight.

    Re “the first neurenberg [sic] law”
    I didn’t understand your question the first time because of the typo and unclear wording. I’m well aware that shechita was banned in Nazi Germany. In modern times, it has also been banned in New Zealand and 3 other countries. The fact that shechita was banned by the Nazis because of anti-Semitism does not mean that all practices of shechita are immune from error, mispractice, or criticism within the Jewish community (my later post will have more information about this) and that all criticism is necessarily anti-Semitic. As for your historical points, I regret using Wikipedia and other Web sources (I certainly know the gist but wanted to confirm the dates–and this is quick and easy), but it appears your account is inaccurate. The Nuremberg Laws (a subset of Nazi laws targeting Jews, not the entirety) were passed in 1935 and had nothing to do with shechita. Shechita was banned in April 1933. That was soon after Hitler came to power (January 1933), but it certainly was not the first action taken against the Jews in Nazi Germany — in other words, your insinuation that shechita is the first target for anyone out to destroy Jews is false.

    Re “the Orthodox Union (who I am sure you despise)”
    I don’t despise the OU. I’m not sure where you came up with that idea, but it’s probably not worth arguing the point.

    Re “the Orthodox Union … had also gone down there since the meat would be non kosher if … other suffering [was] caused.”
    This is simply not an accurate account of the OU’s involvement. If you disagree, please provide a source. Although I disagree with their argument, many in the kosher establishment have said that tza’ar ba’alei chayim is distinct from certifying meat as kosher and that tza’ar ba’alei chayim does not invalidate kashrut.

  15. Michael Croland Says:

    Michael Adler/others,

    You deemed my previous explanations regarding tza’ar ba’alei chayim at AgriProcessors inadequate. I have responded in greater depth in this new The Jew & The Carrot post that just went online:

    http://tinyurl.com/2dk7vya

  16. David Says:

    This whole Rubashkin is very troubling to me. It seems that if the government has something against you, they can tear you down totally and completely.

    Leading up to the raid on Agriprocessors the government painted the company as one of the worst drug producing and sexual abuse hubs in the country, lead by a drug king Sholom Rubashkin. But in the end it all boiled down to inflating invoices… yes it’s a crime but does it deserve to destroy a huge company? Destroy thousands of jobs? Put a father of 10 – with a long history of community service – in jail for LIFE?

    Did he scheme to defraud and steal money for the bank? Did he have any intention NOT to repay every last penny of the loan? That is until the government directly caused it to go bankrupt?

    And after they filed for bankruptcy protection, when attempting to sell the company to minimize the loss to the debtors, the US GOVERNMENT threatened serious potential buyers with Forfeiture if they employ ANY member of the Rubashkin family – even those not charged with anything!!! – Basically turning away all serious investors. Rubashkin’s were ONLY ones with intricate knowledge of the national kosher meat industry, and without their input, it would be very difficult to succeed.

    Then, after causing serious buyers, willing to pay in the vicinity of 25 million dollars for the company to turn away, the government charges Sholom Rubashkin for causing a $27 million dollar loss to the bank… who caused the loss to the bank? This is a sad chapter in the US justice history…

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