Rubashkin Trial Roundup: Shabbos in Postville, 50th Birthday, Sioux Falls, and the Trial Goes On


rubashkinThe Rubashkin trial continued yesterday as it entered its second week. Afterwards, yesterday evening, Reb Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin could be found in Sioux Falls being mekarev Yidden.

“As if he hasd nothing else to do – he’s standing trial for his very life, after all,” the reporter in Postville relates, “Reb Shalom Mordechai spent an extended period of time with Israelis who are in this area of South Dakota, instilling in them a love of Hashem, and demonstrating his ahavas Hashem and bitachon. Just as he serves as a mentor of sorts to the bochurim of Rav Gurkov’s yeshiva back in Postville, Reb Shalom Mordechai, with his endearing personality, is able to be mashpiah on those who come in contact with him. Frankly,” the reporter concluded, “it is simply amazing to observe. If only all readers of these words could observe this phenomenon in person and observe this individual whose behavior is lemaalah min hatevah.”

Back on Thursday, on the third day of trial, a former employee at Agriprocessors, Verla O’Shaughnessy, testified that Reb Shalom Mordechai appeared nervous and “very hyper” the morning that he was arrested on immigration charges. O’Shaughnessy was among several customer service employees who testified against Reb Shalom Mordechai on the third day of his 91-count fraud trial.

During cross examination of several witnesses, however, it emerged that the witnesses who had claimed that Reb Shalom Mordechai displayed nervousness had actually only met him a couple of times before.

“They had little knowledge of him or his personality to base their testimony on and say that he was nervous,” related the reporter. “They admitted that they didn’t really know him to have been able to make such an assertion.”

On Monday, several Agriprocessors clients testified. These included several sellers of kosher meat who regularly bought from Agriprocessors. The prosecution focused their efforts on trying to prove that various invoices from Agriprocessors were falsified and then used to defraud a bank. The goal of the prosecution was to show that these clients were unaware that Agriprocessors had allegedly attached their business names to made-up debts. Some invoices, for example, stated that these companies owed money to Agriprocessors, but supporting documentation showing that a delivery was made, said the prosecution, could not be provided. The prosecution claimed that Agri borrowed money based on these invoices which showed that certain monies were set to come in to its coffers from these clients.

One of the sellers was Aaron Tzivin, who owns the Crown Heights House of Glatt in Brooklyn, NY. He actually told jurors that he still has a good relationship with the Rubashkin family, whom he has known for close to 30 years.  Tzivin is married to Reb Shalom Mordechai’s first cousin, and testified that Reb Shalom Mordechai generously allowed him to extend his credit line with the company when needed so he could receive more meat as needed. In exchange, he said he loaned money to Agri when asked.

Reb Shalom Mordechai and his family “were very nice to me,” Tzivin said. “I pushed for a bigger credit line, and they did it for me.”

Defense attorney Guy Cook asked Tzivin if he was related to the Rubashkins and he replied: “Yes. And I’m proud of it.”

Yisrael Kagan, owner of the Glatt Western Kosher in Los Angeles, testified that Agriprocessors was disorganized and often did not ship all of the meat he had ordered. This testimony was favorable to the defense for it demonstrated that due to the massive growth of the company, orders were sometimes delayed or mistakenly not sent out as planned. Kagan said he only paid for meat that he received.

“Occasional disorganization is not a crime,” explained the Matzav reporter, “and with the expansion of the company, orders were sometimes going out faster than the computer system could handle. Even when the computer system crashed, the company continued to provide its customers with meat, not allowing a disruption in service. Thus, a lack of invoices would not show any sort of fraud of any type as the prosecution averred. It was simply the reality of a successful meat business,” concluded the reporter.

Kagan said the plant supplied about 95 percent of his meat before Agriprocessors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. He said his company caters events throughout Los Angeles, and supplied Agriprocessors meat for various events as well as for renowned chef Wolfgang Puck.

When the plant struggled, Kagan said he sent advance payments totaling roughly $700,000 – including $500,000 taken from a mortgage on his home – with no written agreement.

The reporter related:

“The prosecution had a bunch of invoices that they claimed doesn’t have supporting documentation but claims that companies owed money. The prosecution was going through the documents with the former Agri clients trying to demonstrate their false nature. In one case, however, a client identified an invoice and said that he recalled it and that it was 100% authentic. This threw a wrench into the prosecution’s argument that it was all fabricated.”

During one of the cross examinations, there was an interesting incident as the witness seemed to be receiving tips from an acquaintance of his who was sitting in the audience.  The audience member seemed to be coaching the witness as to what to say. The witness, following the initial question by the prosecution, seemed to get flustered while delivering his rehearsed testimony.  The witness requested a break, which was granted by Judge Reade, who said she was not happy with the coaching taking place by the audience member.

“In fact, later,” shared the reporter, “Attorney Cook worked this into a question to the witness, asking, ‘So is that what your lawyer was signaling to you?’ The prosecution immediately objected to this statement by the defense, insinuating that the audience member had been providing info for the witness to relate on the stand. But the judge overturned the objection, stating that what the defense had said was simply the truth: the witness was receiving coaching on what to say.'”

Other witnesses on Monday represented hide and rendering companies. Rendering is a process that converts waste animal tissue into stable, value-added materials. Rendering refers to any processing of animal byproducts, such as fatty tissue or bones, into more useful materials.

Some of the representatives from these companies spoke highly of Reb Shalom Mordechai. Some of them said that they did not deal with Reb Shalom Mordechai, who was not directly involved in sales. The prosecution once again attempted to show that there were financial transactions that require explanations and have not been documented properly.

The defense explained that this is not the case. During testimony of the company reps, it was stated by one witness that their company actually advanced $100,000 to Agri for hides that would be provided in the future.

“The received credit, so to speak,” said the reporter. “The prosecution would like the court to believe that this money was unaccounted for.”

Also, while prosecutors are trying to pin blame for supposed inaccuracies on Reb Shalom Mordechai, some of these representatives said they never even dealt with Reb Shalom Mordechai, but rather with Toby (Yom Tov) Bensasoon, who worked for Agri.

“Toby had previously pleaded guilty and his testimony is being used by the prosecution against Reb Shalom Mo0rdechai, or at least they are trying to do so,” said the reporter.

“It is important to remember that these days and weeks are the prosecution’s time to throw all types of charges and claims – as lacking in truth as they may be – as they can. This is their time. The defense will get its chance down the road. However,” he added, “the prosecution has clearly seen some disappointment over the first few days of court with witnesses either admitting a lack of knowledge about Reb Shalom Mordechai or expressing their respect and good relationship with him.”

On Monday, as the afternoon rolled along and the clock passed 4 p.m., the prosecution was expected to bring to the witness stand representatives of various banks. However, due to travel deays, the witnesses had not arrived. At that point, a less-than-pleased Judge Reade called for the court to adjourn. Thus, court ended at 4:15 p.m., rather than 5 p.m.

In the evening, following an uplifting weekend and Shabbos back home in Postville, Reb Shalom Mordechai set out with some bochurim to share words of chizuk and Torah with irreligious Israelis who are in Sioux Falls.

“This was remarkable. And it came, interestingly, just two days after Reb Shalom Mordechai’s 50th birthday,” stated the reporter. “I learned that Friday, 28 Tishrei, ‘koach Tishrei,’ was Reb Shalom Mordechai birthday. He spent an amazing Shabbos with family and the bochurim in Postville. These bochurim look up to him and are inspired by his hanhogas hachaim.

“The bochurim in Postville and other areas on the West Coast and East Coast have divided Sefer Tehillim and rotate learning at different hours to ensure that, at least for now, there is someone learning for Reb Shalom Mordechai’s 24 hours a day.

“At the same time that Reb Shalom Mordechai is facing the fear of judgment, his mind is still on sharing the word of G-d with others. He is a man who is genuinely devoted to his Creator. Where do you find such people?” concluded our reporter.

{Noam Newscenter/ reporter}