Another Strong Day for Rubashkin Defense, Rav Menachem Meir Weissmandl Testifies

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rubashkin2The following is a rundown of today’s proceedings from the Rubashkin trial:

3:40 p.m., Waterloo, Ia. – The defense said it has run out of witnesses for the day. The jury will return Tuesday morning. Tomorrow the court is closed because of budget cuts, and Monday is Memorial Day.

The final witnesses for today:

Rav Menachem Meir Weissmandel, a former mashgiach at Agriprocessors, said he walked every area of the plant once a month and always observed workers wearing all their safety equipment.

“Never ever did I see an Agriprocessors worker that appeared to be under 18,” he said.

He spent some time explaining the difference between Orthodox, Conservative and liberal Jews. He said 170 years ago there was a split in the Jewish community when some wanted to modify or loosen the Jewish codes. Only the Orthodox community kept true to the original code of Jewish law.

Hekhsher Tzedek is a conservative kosher certification that he said was started to steal Orthodox certification business.

The defense has spent a bulk of time going over the various forces working against Agriprocessors. The list includes: Unions, liberal Jews like those at The Forward, conservative Jews like those pushing the Hekhsher Tzedek kosher certification, PETA, and the Catholic church in Postville.

A former student at Postville’s Jewish boys school said Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin refused to give him a job at the plant when he was 16.

Eli Pinson, who lives in Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, said Reb Sholom Mordechai also refused to give a job to one of his friends who was a minor.

3:00 p.m., Waterloo, Ia. – A construction worker with projects at Agriprocessors said Aaron Rubashkin was clearly in charge of the construction.

An Orthodox Jewish man from Minnesota said he toured Agriprocessors in 2006 with a rabbi and a federal safety inspector.

They examined every corner of the plant and didn’t find any safety violations.

Carlos Carbonera said he made the trip after reading a now famous expose in a New York City-based Jewish newspaper that alleged horrendous conditions inside the slaughterhouse.

Carbonera said he would have stopped buying the Agriprocessors meat if he had observed any of the problems detailed in the article.

Deputy Iowa Attorney General Thomas H. Miller said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Agriprocessors in 2008 for failing to train employees to assist in an orderly and safe evacuation.

Miller then asked Carbonera if he was aware of safety violations at the plant for failing to post safety evacuation routes and for an ammonia leak.

2:30 p.m., Waterloo, Ia. – For nearly 45 minutes, defense attorney Mark Weinhardt showed picture after picture of fresh-faced Latino workers he said were over 18 to a state criminal investigator and the jury.

He instructed Jon Turbett, an agent with Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, to try to guess the ages of the laborers in photographs taken during a May 12, 2008 immigration raid at Agriprocessors.

When the attorney asked Turbett to estimate the age of the person in the first photograph, he guessed 17 or 18 years old, “based solely on this photograph.”

The person in the photograph was over 18, the attorney said.

“There’s a wide, wide difference between those two ages, isn’t there?” Weinhardt said.

Weinhardt suggested Reb Sholom Mordechai was being prosecuted for his ability to tell the ages of people with frocks and hard hats on. The former plant executive faces 83 misdemeanor child-labor charges.

Turbett responded that Reb Sholom Mordechai is being prosecuted for knowingly allowing minors to work at the plant, and said he believes “that’s the truth.”

“These are hard to pick out, aren’t they?” Weinhardt said.

Weinhardt said some underage workers pleaded guilty to identity theft charges and served time in prison because every person in the federal criminal justice system believed they were over 18.

Upon questioning from the state, Turbett said he never used a photograph as the sole basis for establishing the age of anyone in the case.

1:30 p.m., Waterloo, Ia. – Reb Sholom Mordechai’s defense team continued its effort today to discredit the only witness who said the former Agriprocessors executive knew of minors working at the kosher slaughterhouse.

Rabbi Tzvi Bass said former plant supervisor Matthew Derrick never talked to him about children at the kosher slaughterhouse or about working conditions there.

Rabbi Bass also said he didn’t see any workers he thought were underage in Derrick’s department. Derrick had testified at least half of his employees were underage.

Other plant managers offered similar testimony for the defense yesterday.

On the first day of the trial, Derrick said he warned Reb Sholom Mordechai about minors at the plant sometime in 2006 and 2007.

Bass said he heard Derrick, who testified he cared deeply for his workers, disparage his Guatemalan workers.

Derrick once said they needed to pack “these Mexicanos like sardines and send them back to Mexico,” Bass said.

When Bass pointed out they were Guatemalans, Derrick waved his hand dismissively, he said.

Out of the presence of the jury, Rabbi Bass said an employee showed him Matthew Derrick, the former Agriprocessors supervisor, inappropriately touching an employee named Jennifer Toj. A previous witness, Nilda Nuritza Rucal, said she worked under that name.

Black Hawk County District Associate Judge Nathan Callahan said he won’t allow the testimony to be presented to the jury.

Callahan also didn’t allow the jury to hear a witness who said she overheard someone coaching former Agriprocessors workers in August 2008 on how to receive U-visas.

A former Agriprocessors security director said he never saw anyone walk into the plant he thought was under the age of 18.

Cletus Pladsen of Waukon said everyone had to walk by him to enter the plant for eight years.

On cross-examination, the prosecutor showed him a picture of a young-looking former worker who testified.

“Does that look like an adult to you?” said Deputy Iowa Attorney General Thomas H. Miller.

“No,” Pladsen said.

11:10 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. – A rabbi who supervised kosher production at Agriprocessors disputed claims by a former manager who said children worked at the plant.

Rabbi Tzvi Bass said former plant supervisor Matthew Derrick never talked to him about children at the kosher slaughterhouse or about working conditions there.

Bass also said he didn’t see any workers he thought were underage in Derrick’s department. Derrick had testified at least half of his employees were underage.

Other plant managers offered similar testimony for the defense yesterday. Derrick’s testimony is the only evidence that directly links Rubashkin to knowing about child laborers before an investigation by state and federal officials, the defense said earlier today.

Bass said he heard Derrick, who testified he cared deeply for his workers, disparage his Guatemalan workers.

Derrick once said they needed to pack “these Mexicanos like sardine and send them back to Mexico,” Bass said.

When Bass pointed out they were Guatemalans, Derrick waved his hand dismissively, he said.

Bass said he knew Henry Lopez Calel, who had previously testified he hauled heavy turkey barrels hundreds of feet while working at the plant as a minor.

Bass said he never observed Lopez Calel hauling any barrels, and no workers ever hauled barrels more than a few dozen feet.

10:25 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. – Suria Hubbner of New York said she failed to convince Reb Sholom Mordechai and other company officials on several occasions to hire her sons when they were 17.

When she persisted, one of her sons said everyone knows Rubashkin doesn’t hire minors, she said.

State did not cross-examine her.

10:15 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. – A former Agriprocessors security director said he never saw anyone walk into the plant he thought was under the age of 18.

Cletus Pladsen of Waukon said everyone had to walk by him to enter the plant for eight years.

On cross-examination, the prosecutor showed him a picture of a young-looking former worker who testified.

“Does that look like an adult to you?” said Deputy Iowa Attorney General Thomas H. Miller.

“No,” Pladsen said.

10:05 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. – The judge said the defense can’t present evidence to the jury from a witness who said she overheard someone coaching former Agriprocessors workers on how to receive U-visas in August 2008.

Ana McCarthy said she visited Postville multiple times that month in an attempt to find what really happened at the kosher slaughterhouse. She said she’s a Panama native and a Spanish Jew.

While waiting to meet with two members of St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, she said she overheard a representative from Chicago-based Jewish Council on Urban Affairs speaking to the workers.

“He was coaching them. He was telling them about their right, and what they could do to get a visa,” she said.

Black Hawk County District Associate Judge Nathan Callahan said he didn’t see a specific connection of the incident with any of the witnesses in the trial.

He said the defense had an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses about their U-visa status and how that might impact their testimony.

“It’s tangential to the issues that we’re dealing with. It’s another opportunity for this mini-trial on the side,” he said.

9:30 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. – The first witness of the day is Ana McCarthy, an Illinois resident. She’s a Panama native and certified Spanish-language interpreter. She says she is a Spanish Jew. Not clear yet why she is on the stand.

Before the jury was seated, a judge denied a request from Reb Sholom Mordechai defense team to tell the jury that a former Agriprocessors supervisor never revealed to the state that he spoke with Reb Sholom Mordechai about child laborers at the plant.

The defense asked the state to turn over any evidence of the conversation Matthew Derrick said he had with Rubashkin. The state said it had nothing to disclose.

It is the only evidence that links Reb Sholom Mordechai to knowing about underage workers at the plant before investigations by state and federal labor officials.

“If he never revealed it (to the state), it would certainly undermine the credibility of the statement,” said defense attorney Mark Weinhardt.

Black Hawk County District Associate Judge Nathan Callahan said he had the impression that Derrick’s disclosure of his conversation with Reb Sholom Mordechai came as a surprise to the state.

Callahan noted he didn’t allow the attorneys to delve into alleged death threats against him and alleged harassment he committed.

“I don’t find his statement in regards to his conversation with Sholom Rubashkin all that credible. It’s a tough thing for the defense to deal with,” he said.

Please continue to daven for Reb Shalom Mordechai ben Rivkah.

Significant funds must still be raised for the legal defense. Anyone who can help out and lend support should take a moment to send a donation to the Pidyon Shvuyim Fund. The help of Yidden across the globe is severely needed.

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{Des Moines Register/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}

4 COMMENTS

  1. To all of who – for years – have made a big sting of how Agri “abused” the poor workers, did you hear the testimony presented today in court? I’m afraid that these “complaints” of grave “mistreatment” was – in a large part – concocted by liberal Jews, Forward ‘rabbi’ Allan, unions, PETA etc. who had a vested interest in destroying the Rubashkin family and kosher.

    9:34 Jeff Reinitz: ANA McCARTHY: I was just speaking to the people to see what was happening. I wasn’t taping the people. Someone else was taping. went to St. Bridget’s Catholic Church August 21

    ANA McCARTHY: spoke to people who said they were former Agripros employees in the rectory. Met Thomas Wash who was meeting with a couple. There was another couple waiting, and I was waiting.

    ANA McCARTHY: U-visas are almost impossible to obtain
    F MONTGOMERY BROWN: if illegal alien found in the US with 3 months of their 18th birthday … have you worked with immigration lawyers re: people seeking residency?
    ANA McCARTHY: yes, including U-visas.

    ANA McCARTHY: I was gathering information in order to get an opinion to tell the news networks.

    MB: (going over Thomas Walsh and Jewish Council of Urban affairs working with S. Bridget’s Church. )

    ANA McCARTHY: Walsh was having discussions with people about visa issues. He told them if they made claims, they could get legal status in the US.

    ANA McCARTHY: I was there to meet with Father Paul and Sister Bradly. I waited by a couple and was talking to them. We could hear what Walsh was saying. He was coaching them, telling them about the rights, what they could do to get legal state. He said they had to say they were being abused by Mr. Rubashkin. told them he was a filthy Jew who became rich at their expense. telling them they could get deported.

    ANA McCARTHY: Walsh got upset when he came out and saw me, Fatehr and Sister did nothing. Walsh almost assaulted me. I tried to reach Jewish Council for Urban affairs.
    ANA McCARTHY: I complained to Catholic church, refered to Sister Bradly

  2. Matzav Editor: Please next time make the notes in time order. Not backwards. Since I read straight and I want to get a straight picture, lets start from the morning (9:30 am) and finish at the end of the day.

    I would think…

  3. I told someone (an attorney, a fellow frum Yid) about that “filthy Jew” comment and he said that it’ll show that this person lied under oath. Nobody will believe that the people at that church said that Rubashkin was a filthy Jew. Too out of character.

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