American Jewish leaders are expressing shock and outrage at the federal government’s recommendation that Sholom Rubashkin be sentenced to life in prison for his role as an executive with the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. It is the latest example of a prosecution that has repeatedly targeted Rubashkin for unfair treatment compared to others who have been accused of employing illegal immigrants or compromising the security of a bank loan.
Supporters of Sholom Rubashkin are being urged to sign an online petition at the “Justice for Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin” Web page at http://justiceforsholom.org and call or e-mail Department of Justice Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison (202-514-3465 ; firstname.lastname@example.org and cc email@example.com), to protest the recommendations of life in prison for Sholom Rubashkin.
Those interested in assisting the “Equal Justice for Sholom Rubashkin” campaign, or in receiving call to action alerts should e-mail their contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org, or text message ICARE to 347-948-JUST (5878).
Jewish rabbinic leaders have signed a proclamation, urging their Jewish brethren to contact the Justice Department on Rubashkin’s behalf, calling it a “sacred obligation of every individual to participate in this mitzvah.”
The sentencing recommendation submitted by prosecutors to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa is inconsistent with sentencing of other corporate executives convicted in comparable cases. For example, Mark Turkcan, an official First Bank, was recently convicted of bank fraud involving a loss of approximately $35 million, and was sentenced to one year and one day in prison. And Cathy Gieseker was sentenced to nine years in prison for bilking 179 farmers out of more than $27 million. Her motive, unlike Rubashkin and Turkcan, was greed.
Rubashkin was originally indicted for employing illegal immigrants, an offense that has been punished with probation or a short prison term. After seven superseding indictments, prosecutors chose to proceed to trial on alleged bank fraud charges in an effort to increase Rubashkin’s punishment, even though interest was paid on all of the money drawn by the loan and the bank has acknowledged it received approximately $21 million in profit from the interest payments.
The bank loan was not paid in full because of the government’s raid on Agriprocessors, which caused the company to declare bankruptcy. The bank “called” the loan when Agriprocessors could not continue to make its payments. The May 2008 raid included a military style raid and more than 600 federal agents. It was widely criticized for the extreme tactics utilized by prosecutors and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The raid destroyed the company and had disastrous lasting effects on the community of Postville and the kosher meat industry.
Prosecutors and the U.S. Probation Office have calculated the total offense committed by Rubashkin at level 45 under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Because the federal Sentencing Table caps at level 43, the Probation Office has calculated the total offense at level 43. An offense level of 43 is punished with a life sentence under the sentencing guidelines, which the Supreme Court held as no longer mandatory.
Rubashkin’s attorneys have asked the court to impose a sentence no greater than 72 months, noting his positive history and character, his extraordinary family circumstances, and the arbitrary nature of the now-advisory guidelines used by prosecutors. They emphasize that Rubashkin’s conduct was not done for personal gain, that he did not intend any loss to the bank, and that a 72-month sentence would allow the Bureau of Prisons to place Rubashkin in a facility with experience in effectively and humanely incarcerating observant Jewish inmates.
In Rubashkin’s bank-fraud trial, prosecutors were allowed to present inflammatory evidence regarding the employment of illegal workers, even though the judge had previously ruled that such evidence would prejudice the jury and had severed the immigration and bank fraud charges for that reason. The charges regarding harboring illegal immigrants were eventually dropped.
Rubashkin supporters argue that prosecutors have subjected Rubashkin to more severe restrictions and potential punishment than other employers whose work premises were raided by ICE and who were found to have hired larger numbers of illegal workers. The country’s largest meatpacker, Swift & Company, was raided in six different states in December 2006, and almost 1,300 illegal immigrants were arrested. No corporate official of Swift & Company has been prosecuted. RCI, International, a restaurant janitorial service operating in 17 states, was raided in 63 locations in February 2007. Its owners, who paid their employees (all illegal immigrants) in cash, were found to have defrauded the United States of more than $18 million in taxes. Its chief operating officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The owner of a Massachusetts manufacturer of leather goods and handbags raided by ICE in March 2007, when 326 illegal immigrants were arrested, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison.
Advocates for Rubashkin are urged to support an online petition at the “Justice for Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin” Web page at http://justiceforshalom.org. The Web site also provides other tools for community members to contact the U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case and the Department of Justice.
Please continue to daven for Reb Shalom Mordechai ben Rivkah.
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