Sholom Rubashkin

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Sholom Rubashkin
Rubashkin (2018)
Rubashkin (2018)
Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin

(1959-10-30) October 30, 1959 (age 63)
OccupationKosher meat plant manager
Criminal chargeBank fraud
Criminal penalty27 years imprisonment, $27 million in restitution. June 2010.
Criminal statusSentence commuted December 20, 2017
SpouseLeah Rubashkin
Parent(s)Aaron Rubashkin (father)
Rivka Rubashkin (mother)

Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin (born October 30, 1959)[1] is a convicted felon and the former CEO of Agriprocessors, a now-bankrupt kosher slaughterhouse and meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa, formerly owned by his father, Aaron Rubashkin. During his time as CEO of the plant, Agriprocessors grew into one of the nation's largest kosher meat producers, but was also cited for issues involving animal cruelty,[2] food safety, environmental safety, child labor, and hiring undocumented immigrants.[3]

In November 2009, Rubashkin was convicted of 86 counts of financial fraud, including bank fraud, mail and wire fraud and money laundering. In June 2010, he was sentenced to 27 years in prison. In a separate trial, he was acquitted of knowingly hiring underage workers. He served his sentence in Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville in Mount Hope, New York. In January 2011, his lawyers filed an appeal; on September 16, 2011, the appeals court ruled against Rubashkin. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of that ruling on October 1, 2012. On December 20, 2017, asserting a large bipartisan push for the measure, President Donald Trump commuted Rubashkin's prison sentence after eight years served.[4]

Early life and marriage[edit]

Sholom Rubashkin is the second-youngest son of Rivka and Aaron Rubashkin, a kosher butcher from Brooklyn, New York, born in Nevel, Russia.[5] The Rubashkins are ultra-Orthodox Jews belonging to the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement.[5][6]

In 1981, Rubashkin married Leah Goldman and spent a year learning in kollel. He then worked in his father's butcher shop, until he and his wife were sent to Atlanta, Georgia, as emissaries (shluchim) in the Chabad-Lubavitch outreach program.[7] A year later the couple moved to Minnesota, whence Rubashkin commuted to his father's new meat-packing plant in Postville for approximately three years before they relocated there.[8] The couple has ten children.[9]

CEO of Agriprocessors[edit]

In 1987, Aaron Rubashkin opened the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, and put two of his sons in charge: Sholom, the second-youngest, as CEO;[10] and Heshy, the youngest, as vice president of marketing and sales. Eventually, Agriprocessors became the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse and meat packing plant and the only one authorized by Israel's Orthodox rabbinate to export beef to Israel.[11] According to statistics Rubashkin gave to Cattle Buyers Weekly, Agriprocessors' sales increased from $80 million in 1997 to $180 million in 2002. In 2002, Agriprocessors was ranked as one of the 30 biggest beef-packing plants in America.[5]

Under Rubashkin's leadership, Agriprocessors was cited for issues involving animal treatment,[12] food safety,[13] environmental safety,[14] child labor,[15] and hiring other undocumented workers.

In 2004 and again in 2008, PETA documented Agriprocessors’ cruel treatment of animals and gruesome violations of Kosher law.[16][17]

Rubashkin was replaced as CEO in September 2008.[18] Agriprocessors' plants stopped operating in October 2008. On November 5, 2008, the firm filed for bankruptcy.

Raid and arrests[edit]

On May 12, 2008, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security agents raided the plant and arrested 389 workers who had fraudulent identity documentation. At that time, it was the largest raid into a workplace in the United States.[9]

On October 30, 2008, one day after the Iowa labor commissioner fined Agriprocessors $10 million for wage violations, Rubashkin was arrested on federal conspiracy charges of harboring undocumented immigrants and aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft. Federal officials claimed that he intentionally helped undocumented workers obtain false documentation.[19] After an initial court appearance, he was released the same day on $1 million appearance bond after agreeing to wear an ankle monitor to track his movement, to limit his travel to northern Iowa, and to surrender his and his wife's passports.[20]

On November 13, 2008, Rubashkin was arrested again at his Postville home on federal charges of bank fraud. The charges claimed that under his direction, millions of dollars that were supposed to be deposited in an account as collateral for a loan were fraudulently diverted to another account and used to fraudulently increase the value of Agriprocessors' accounts receivable. After the money was diverted, Rubashkin allegedly ordered the records of these transactions removed from company computers. The charges carried up to 30-year prison terms.[21]

Rubashkin was denied release on bail on November 20, 2008, after Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles determined that he posed a flight risk. Scoles took into consideration Israel's "Law of Return," which grants automatic citizenship to every Jew and members of his family upon immigration, as well as a search of Rubashkin's house in which federal agents found a bag with $20,000 in cash, several silver coins and passports.[22][23] The successful use of an argument based on Israel's Law of Return has caused concern among Jewish communities who fear that such claims could be used to deny bail to Jews in general.[24]

District Court Judge Linda Reade reversed Scoles's ruling on January 27, 2009. Rubashkin was released on $500,000 bond and ordered to surrender his birth certificate and his and his family's passports and agree to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet. He was not allowed to leave Allamakee County or on any of Agriprocessors' property and was barred from having contact with potential witnesses.[25]


Federal trials[edit]

Rubashkin was convicted in November 2009 on 86 charges of financial fraud, including bank fraud, mail and wire fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors claimed the company intentionally defrauded St. Louis based First Bank on a revolving $35 million loan by faking invoices from meat dealers, inflating the value of the company.[26]

On November 23, 2009, Rubashkin's second trial on 72 immigration charges was canceled following the government's request to dismiss without prejudice. In its motion to dismiss, the U.S. Attorney's Office said any conviction on the immigration charges would have no impact upon his sentence, writing, "dismissal will avoid an extended and expensive trial, conserve limited resources, and lessen the inconvenience to witnesses."[27] Reade dismissed the immigration charges without prejudice.

On March 3, 2010, Reade denied Rubashkin's motion for dismissal of the financial corruption charges and request for a new trial.[28]

Rubashkin's sentencing hearing took place on April 28–29 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Prosecutors asked Reade to impose a life sentence. After that request came under fire from former Justice Department officials, including six former Attorneys General, one former solicitor general and more than a dozen former U.S. attorneys,[29] Assistant U.S. Attorney Pete Deegan said in court that the government would seek 25 years, while the defense asked for no more than six years.[30]

On June 22, 2010, Reade handed down a sentence of 27 years, two years more than prosecutors had requested.[31] According to a 52-page memorandum she released the day before sentencing, Reade imposed a 324-month prison term followed by 5 years of supervised release, and ordered Rubashkin to pay $18.5 million to First Bank Business Capital, the plant's largest lender; $8.3 million to MB Financial Bank, another lender; and $3,800 to Waverly Sales, Inc., which received late payments from the plant for cattle.[32]

His lawyers requested that he be sent to Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville due to the services the prison provides to religious Jewish inmates; Reade placed the request and the BOP granted it. His lawyers stated that he wished to be eventually sent to a lower-security prison.[33]

State child labor trial[edit]

Separate from the federal trials, Rubashkin went on trial on the child labor charges in state court in Waterloo, Iowa, starting May 4, 2010.[34] Before the trial, charges against Agriprocessors corporate officer Aaron Rubashkin and plant human resources employee Laura Althouse were dismissed. Additionally, the number of charges in the indictment was amended to 83 from 9,311.[35] Sholom Rubashkin was acquitted of all charges on June 7, 2010,[36] but Agriprocessors, which had been purchased by Heshy Friedman, entered a guilty plea to the 83 child labor charges, and the plant's human resources manager pleaded to state child labor charges under an agreement with the state.

In February 2016 the child labor case against Rubashkin was expunged.[37]

Unsuccessful motion for new trial[edit]

On August 5, 2010, Rubashkin's lawyers filed a motion for new trial after having discovered that Reade was more involved in planning the 2008 immigration raid at Agriprocessors′ Postville plant than previously disclosed, claiming that "federal law and U.S. Supreme Court rulings would have required Reade to remove herself from the trial."[38] On October 27, 2010, Reade denied the motion.[39]

On January 3, 2011, Rubashkin's lawyers filed an appeal for a new trial with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. In the brief, four arguments for a new trial were made. According to the brief, government documents that surfaced after Rubashkin's conviction and were not made available to the defense showed that Reade was involved in planning the federal immigration raid of the Postville plant in May 2008, which it sees as collusion with the prosecution. Reade's "excessive coziness" with prosecutors planning the raid raised doubts about her impartiality in the case, the brief claims, and states that as a result Reade should have recused herself, and that Rubashkin is entitled to a new trial or, at a minimum, an evidentiary hearing.[40]

Following the filing of this appeal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) filed amicus briefs supporting Rubashkin's appeal for a new trial.[41] What has united the three groups is the involvement of the judge in the case with the prosecution, as argued by Rubashkin's defense team, which, according to ACLU's Iowa legal director Randall Wilson, "immediately gave the appearance of unfairness."[42] The ACLU brief says: "Mr. Rubashkin's conviction should be vacated and he should get his 'day in court,' with a tribunal that is not an arm of the prosecution. Due Process demands it. The Separation of Powers Doctrine demands it."[43] The ACLU still sees Rubashkin as someone who exploited undocumented workers and underage labor, according to Wilson, but sees these as separate issues from the matter of legal principle argued in its brief.[42] After the filing of the appeal, the government, in a rare move, denied consent to the filing of the three amicus briefs, and filed a Resistance with the Eighth Circuit, attempting to block the court from accepting the brief.[44] Following a law review published in Bloomberg Law Reports,[45] the government filed a brief to withdraw its opposition to the amicus briefs.[46]

On March 11, 2011, the government filed its response to Rubashkin's appeal and on April 18, 2011, Rubashkin's lawyers filed their reply brief. The oral argument before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals took place on June 15, 2011, in St. Louis.[47] On September 16, 2011, the court ruled against Rubashkin.[48] Rubashkin's attorney said they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.[49]

Unsuccessful U.S. Supreme Court petition[edit]

In early April 2012, Rubashkin petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, asking the Court to look into his case and sentencing. The Court denied the petition.[50]

Represented by former US Solicitor General Paul Clement of Bancroft PLLC and Nathan Lewin of Lewin and Lewin LLP, Rubashkin argued that Reade, who met with prosecutors before the Postville Raid, could not be impartial, and that his 27-year sentence was excessive for a first-time nonviolent offender.[51]

Six amicus briefs were filed with the Supreme Court supporting Rubashkin's writ of certiorari. Amici included 86 former federal judges and Department of Justice officials (27 federal judges, 2 Attorneys General, 1 Inspector General, 2 FBI directors, 4 Deputy Attorneys General and 1 Solicitor General), National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Washington Legal Foundation, 40 legal ethics professors, Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, and Justice Fellowship.[52][53]


On May 3, 2011, at a once-a-year House Oversight Hearing of the Judiciary Committee at which Attorney General Eric Holder testified, two members of Congress (Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Sheila Jackson Lee) publicly mentioned Rubashkin's case to Holder.[54]

Forty-five members of Congress wrote to Holder to ask questions about the handling of the case.[47]

A petition on the White House's "We the People" website, asking then President Barack Obama to investigate Rubashkin's case, was submitted on October 22, 2011, with 52,226 online signatures. The White House's response was that it could not comment due to the separation of powers. As to the allegations of prosecutorial unethical conduct, the White House asserted that the Department of Justice "has mechanisms in place to investigate allegations of prosecutorial misconduct."[55]

In an op-ed titled "Prosecutors, judges decry Rubashkin 'witch hunt'" in the Des Moines Register, Charles B. Renfrew and James H. Reynolds wrote, "The explanation as to 'why' the pursuit of Sholom Rubashkin was so overzealous that it bordered on a veritable witch hunt still remains elusive, but the clarification as to 'how' is now punctiliously laid out in both the merits brief and the letter to Mr. Techau: There was false testimony and willful manipulation, and that makes this a shocking case of prosecutorial misconduct."[56]


On December 20, 2017, President Donald Trump commuted Rubashkin's sentence.[57] The White House wrote the commutation was "encouraged by bipartisan leaders from across the political spectrum, from Orrin Hatch to Nancy Pelosi", and was "based on expressions of support from Members of Congress and a broad cross-section of the legal community", although the action "is not a Presidential pardon. It does not vacate Mr. Rubashkin's conviction, and it leaves in place a term of supervised release and a substantial restitution obligation, which were also part of Mr. Rubashkin's sentence." Rubashkin was thus released 19 years earlier than planned.[58] Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz had raised Rubashkin's case over lunch with Trump.[59] Opponents of undocumented immigration were upset by the commutation, and reportedly Trump did not answer a reporter's question that was shouted at him about whether he knew Rubashkin had hired undocumented immigrants.[60]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Reb Shalom Mordechai Rubashkin Marks 51st Birthday". October 6, 2010. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
  2. ^ PETA Reveals Extreme Cruelty at Kosher Slaughterhouses | PETA, June 16, 2010, retrieved January 31, 2021
  3. ^ "American Greed: The Slaughterhouse". CNBC.
  4. ^ "Trump Commutes Sentence of Kosher Meatpacking Executive". New York Times. December 21, 2017. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Nathaniel Popper (December 11, 2008). "How the Rubashkins Changed the Way Jews Eat in America". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
  6. ^ Jeff Reinitz (May 27, 2010). "DCI investigator asked to guess ages of Agriprocessors workers". Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. "The Rubashkin family would fall under Ultra Orthodox, said [Rabbi Moses] Weissmandel."
  7. ^ "Sholom Rubashkin: Community Patron Deals With Adversity". Hamodia. 2010. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  8. ^ Jeff Reinitz (June 1, 2010). "Testimony Complete in Rubashkin Child Labor Trial". Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. KCRG-TV News. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Brian Ross (April 26, 2010). "Kosher Meat Plant Owner Wages Behind-the-Scenes Campaign to Limit Jail Time". ABC News. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  10. ^ Sholom Rubashkin is named as CEO of Agriprocessors in most sources (e.g. "Life Sentence Is Debated for Meat Plant Ex-Chief". New York Times. April 28, 2010. Retrieved September 20, 2010., Kari Lydersen (October 31, 2008). "Former CEO of Iowa Kosher Meatpacking Plant Is Arrested". Washington Post. Retrieved September 20, 2010.), but his being appointed CEO formally is disputed.
  11. ^ Alan Cooperman (December 31, 2004). "USDA Investigating Kosher Meat Plant". Washington Post. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  12. ^ Donald G. McNeil Jr. (March 10, 2006). "Inquiry Finds Lax Federal Inspections at Kosher Meat Plant". New York Times. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  13. ^ Nathaniel Popper, "Kosher Slaughterhouse’s Food-Safety Record Criticized by Regulators", The Forward, August 17, 2007
  14. ^ AgriProcessors Inc. Wastewater Settlement Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  15. ^ Preston, Julia (June 7, 2010). "Former Manager of Iowa Slaughterhouse Is Acquitted of Labor Charges". The New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2010.
  16. ^ Hodkin, Michelle (2005). "When Ritual Slaughter Isnt Kosher: An Examination of Shechita and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act". Journal of Animal Law. 1: 129.
  17. ^ PETA Reveals Extreme Cruelty at Kosher Slaughterhouses | PETA, June 16, 2010, retrieved January 31, 2021
  18. ^ Lynda Waddington, "Agriprocessors could face extinction" The Iowa Independent, November 29, 2008
  19. ^ Kari Lydersen (October 31, 2008). "Former CEO of Iowa Kosher Meatpacking Plant Is Arrested". Washington Post. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  20. ^ AP (October 30, 2008). "Rubashkin Released on $1 Million Bail". Retrieved March 12, 2013.
  21. ^ David Franzman (November 14, 2008). "Agriprocessors Former Plant Manager Arrested Again". KCRG-TV News. Archived from the original on January 4, 2013. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  22. ^ Lynda Waddington (November 20, 2008). "Judge: No Bail For Rubashkin". Iowa Independent. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
  23. ^ Katie Wiedemann (January 27, 2009). "Rabbis Speak out for Sholom Rubashkin". KCRG-TV News. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  24. ^ "Chabad committee formed to help Rubashkin defense". JTA. December 30, 2008. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
  25. ^ Jens Manuel Krogstad (January 28, 2009). "Rubashkin freed on $500,000 bail". Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
  26. ^ "Slaughterhouse Manager Convicted in Fraud Case". New York Times. November 13, 2009. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  27. ^ "Rubashkin won't face immigration trial". Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. November 19, 2009. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  28. ^ Jacqueline Palank (March 4, 2010). "Judge denies Motion for New Trial". The Wall Street Journal Blogs. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  29. ^ Julia Preston (April 29, 2010). "Life Sentence Is Debated for Meat Plant Ex-Chief". New York Times. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  30. ^ Nigel Duara, AP (May 3, 2010). "Feds Back Off From Life Sentence for Slaughterhouse Fraud Case. In dispute, the amount of money lost by First Bank Business Capital is key because it could affect Rubashkin's sentence". Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  31. ^ Julia Preston (June 21, 2010). "27-Year Sentence for Plant Manager". The New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2010.
  32. ^ "Sholom Rubashkin to receive 27-year prison sentence". Des Moines Register. June 21, 2010. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  33. ^ Mehaffey, Trish (August 9, 2010). "Sholom Rubashkin transferred to Otisville federal prison". The Gazette (Cedar Rapids). Retrieved October 24, 2017.
  34. ^ Jeff Reinitz (May 5, 2010). "Rubashkin jury selected; trial to start Monday". Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  35. ^ Jeff Reinitz (May 4, 2010). "Child labor case won't be delayed". Waterloo Valley Cedar Falls Courier. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  36. ^ Jeff Reinitz (June 8, 2010). "Jury foreman explains Rubashkin verdict". Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  37. ^ Jeff Reinitz (June 9, 2010). "Moral stakes in Rubashkin child labor case were high, both sides say". Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
  38. ^ Josh Nelson (August 5, 2010). "Rubashkin asks for new trial after judge's role in raid is detailed". Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
  39. ^ AP (October 28, 2010). "Judge says no to Rubashkin request". Des Moines Register. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
  40. ^ "Rubashkin appeal seeks new trial". JTA. January 4, 2011.
  41. ^ "ACLU Supports Agriprocessors Official's Appeal". AP. January 16, 2011.
  42. ^ a b Gal Beckerman (January 19, 2011). "Even the ACLU Says Judge's Action Argues for New Rubashkin Trial". The Forward.
  43. ^ "Prosecutors Scramble To Suppress Friend-of-the-Court Briefs in Rubashkin Appeal". Yated Ne′eman. January 12, 2011.
  44. ^ Debbie Maimon (March 2, 2011). "Government Attempts to Block Amicus Curiae for Rubashkin Seen As Undermining Justice". Yated Ne′eman. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  45. ^ Anthony J. Franze and R. Stanton Jones (February 2011). "With Friends Like These: The Troubling Implications of the Government's Recent Effort to Block Amicus Curiae Briefs in a Controversial White Collar Criminal Appeal". Arnold & Porter LLP. Retrieved December 21, 2017.
  46. ^ Anthony J. Franze and R. Stanton Jones, Arnold & Porter LLP (March 10, 2011). "Lessons From the Rubashkin Amicus Debacle: The Government's About-Face Calls for a DOJ Policy on Friend-of-the-Court Briefs". The Legal Pulse. Retrieved March 10, 2011.
  47. ^ a b Jens Manuel Krogstad (March 28, 2011). "New questions surface about impartiality of federal judge". Des Moines Register, article republished at FailedMessiah. Retrieved March 28, 2011.
  48. ^ Tony Leys (September 16, 2011). "Appeals court: Rubashkin doesn't deserve new trial". Des Moines Register. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  49. ^ "St. Louis, MO - Appeals Court: Rubashkin Doesn't Deserve New Trial". Vosizneias. September 16, 2011. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
  50. ^ Terry Baynes and Johathan Stempel (October 1, 2012). "Supreme Court rejects kosher meat plant manager's appeal". Reuters.
  51. ^ "Rubashkin Appeals Supreme Court". Community News Service. April 2, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  52. ^ Debbie Maimon (May 9, 2012). "Amicus Curiae Urge Supreme Court To Hear Rubashkin Case". The Yeshiva World News. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  53. ^ Debra Cassens Weiss (May 10, 2012). "Waxman Amicus Brief—One of Six Urging Cert in Rubashkin Case—Raises Questions of Bias". ABA Journal - Law News Now. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
  54. ^ "Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the House Judiciary Committee". CSPAN. May 3, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2011.
  55. ^ "Why We Can't Comment". We the People. The White House. October 22, 2011. Archived from the original on November 24, 2011. Retrieved October 29, 2011.
  56. ^ James H. Reynolds, Charles B. Renfrew (May 18, 2016). "Prosecutors, judges decry Rubashkin "witch hunt"". Des Moines Register.
  57. ^ "President Trump Commutes Sentence of Sholom Rubashkin". December 20, 2017. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
  58. ^ "President Trump Commutes Sentence of Sholom Rubashkin". – via National Archives.
  59. ^ "Alan Dershowitz says anyone can get clemency from Trump as buzz builds behind bars". Washington Examiner. June 3, 2018.
  60. ^ "Immigration hawks protest Trump giving Sholom Rubashkin first prison commutation". Washington Examiner. December 21, 2017.

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