Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin
October 30, 1959
|Occupation||Kosher meat plant manager|
|Criminal charge||Bank fraud|
|Criminal penalty||27 years imprisonment, $27 million in restitution. June 2010.|
|Criminal status||Sentence commuted December 20, 2017|
|Parent(s)||Aaron Rubashkin (father)|
Rivka Rubashkin (mother)
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(Rebbes and Chasidim)
Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin (born October 30, 1959) is an American businessman 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 the largest kosher meat producer in the United States, but was also cited for issues involving animal treatment, food safety, environmental safety, child labor, and hiring of illegal immigrants.
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 from that ruling on October 1, 2012. On December 20, 2017, citing the large bipartisan push for the measure, President Donald Trump commuted Rubashkin's prison sentence after eight years served.
Early life and marriage
Sholom Rubashkin is the second-youngest son of Rivka and Aaron Rubashkin, a kosher butcher from Brooklyn, New York, born in Nevel, Russia. The Rubashkins are ultra-Orthodox Jews belonging to the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement.
In 1981, Rubashkin married Leah Goldman and spent a year learning in kollel. Afterwards he 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. A year later the couple moved to Minnesota, from where Rubashkin commuted to his father's new meat-packing plant in Postville for approximately three years before they relocated there. The couple has ten children.
CEO of Agriprocessors
In 1987, Aaron Rubashkin opened the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, and put two of his sons in charge: Sholom Rubashkin, the second youngest, as CEO; and Heshy Rubashkin, the youngest, as vice president of marketing and sales. Eventually, Agriprocessors became the United States' largest kosher slaughterhouse and meat packing plant and the only one authorized by Israel's Orthodox rabbinate to export beef to Israel. According to statistics that 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.
Sholom Rubashkin was replaced as CEO in September 2008. Agriprocessors' plants stopped operating in October 2008. On November 5, 2008, the firm filed for bankruptcy.
Raid and arrests
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.
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 illegal immigrants and aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft. Federal officials claimed that Rubashkin intentionally helped illegal workers obtain false documentation. After making an initial court appearance, he was released the same day on $1 million appearance bond after agreeing to wear an ankle monitor that tracks his movement, to limit his travel to northern Iowa, and to surrender his and his wife's passports.
Rubashkin was arrested again on November 13, 2008, 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 were 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.
Rubashkin was denied release on bail on November 20, 2008, following Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles determination that he posed a flight risk. Scoles took into consideration that searching Rubashkin's house, federal agents had found not only a bag with $20,000 in cash, several silver coins and passports, but also Israel's "Law of Return," which grants automatic citizenship to every Jew and members of his family upon immigration.  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.
The ruling was reversed by District Court Judge Linda Reade on January 27, 2009. Rubashkin was released on $500,000 bond and ordered to surrender his birth certificate, his and his family's passports and agree to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet. He was not allowed to leave Allamakee County, nor was he allowed on any of Agriprocessors' property and was barred from having contact with potential witnesses.
Rubashkin was convicted in November 2009 on 86 charges of financial fraud, including bank fraud, mail and wire fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors had 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.
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. Attorneys 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." Federal Judge Linda R. Reade dismissed the immigration charges without prejudice.
On March 3, 2010, Judge Reade denied Rubashkin's motion for dismissal of the financial corruption charges and a request for a new trial.
Rubashkin's sentencing hearing took place on April 28–29 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Prosecutors asked Judge 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 United States attorneys, 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.
On June 22, 2010, Judge Reade handed down a sentence of 27 years, two years more than prosecutors had requested. According to a 52-page memorandum which she released the day before sentencing, the judge 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.
His lawyers requested for him to 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 eventually he wished to be sent to a lower security prison.
State child labor trial
Separate from the federal trials, Rubashkin went on trial on the child labor charges in state court in Waterloo, Iowa, starting May 4, 2010. Prior to 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. Sholom Rubashkin was acquitted of all charges on June 7, 2010. However, Agriprocessors, as a corporation, which had already 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.
Unsuccessful motion for new trial
On August 5, 2010, lawyers for Rubashkin filed a motion for new trial after having discovered that Judge 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." On October 27, 2010, Judge Reade denied the motion.
On January 3, 2011, lawyers for Rubashkin 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 not made available to the defense showed that Reade was involved in the planning for 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.
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. 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." 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." However, the ACLU still sees in Rubashkin someone who exploited illegal workers and underage labor, according to Wilson, but sees these as separate issues from the matter of legal principle argued in its brief. Subsequent to 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 Eight Circuit, attempting to block the court from accepting the brief. Following a law review published in Bloomberg Law Reports, the government filed a brief to withdraw their opposition to the amicus briefs.
On March 11, 2011, the government filed their 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, Missouri. On September 16, 2011 the court ruled against Rubashkin. Rubashkin's attorney said they would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Unsuccessful U.S. Supreme Court petition
In early April 2012, Rubashkin petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, asking the high court to look into his case and sentencing. The petition was denied by the Court.
Rubashkin, represented by former US Solicitor General Paul Clement of Bancroft PLLC and Nathan Lewin of Lewin and Lewin LLP, argued that Judge Linda Reade, who met with prosecutors prior to the Postville Raid, could not be impartial, and that his 27-year sentence was excessive for a first-time nonviolent offender.
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.
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 D-FL and Sheila Jackson Lee D-TX) publicly mentioned the case of Sholom Rubashkin to the Attorney General.
Forty-five members of Congress have written to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to ask questions about the handling of the case.
A petition on the White House's "We the People" website, asking the then President Barack Obama to investigate the Rubashkin case, was submitted on October 22, 2011, with 52,226 online signatures. The White House's response to the petition was that it was unable to issue a comment due to the separation of powers. As to the allegations of prosecutorial unethical conduct, the White House merely assured that the Department of Justice "has mechanisms in place to investigate allegations of prosecutorial misconduct." 
In an op-ed titled "Prosecutors, judges decry Rubashkin "witch hunt" " that was printed 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."
Rubashkin's sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump on December 20, 2017. The administration's position was that Rubashkin was given a much more severe sentence than others who had committed serious crimes and therefore merited the commutation.
On December 20, 2017, President Donald J. Trump commuted the prison sentence of Sholom Rubashkin. 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" though 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." Therefore Rubashkin was released 19 years earlier than planned.
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- "Prosecutors Scramble To Suppress Friend-of-the-Court Briefs in Rubashkin Appeal". Yated Ne′eman. January 12, 2011.
- Debbie Maimon (March 2, 2011). "Government Attempts to Block Amicus Curiae for Rubashkin Seen As Undermining Justice". Yated Ne′eman. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
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- 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.
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- James H. Reynolds, Charles B. Renfrew (May 18, 2016). "Prosecutors, judges decry Rubashkin "witch hunt"". Des Moines Register.
- "President Trump Commutes Sentence of Sholom Rubashkin". December 20, 2017. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
- Stephen G. Bloom: Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America. Harcourt, New York 2000 ISBN 0-15-601336-3
- Obama criticizes Agriprocessors | News | wcfcourier.com 
- Cornelia Butler Flora, Jan L. Flora (2009). "Lessons for Immigration Reform" (PDF). Iowa State University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16.
- Chicago Tribune Editorial: White-collar blues Chicago Tribune, June 21, 2010
- Menachem Genack: Overzealous prosecution diminished justice Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 25, 2010
- Stephen Gillers: Declaration of Stephen Gillers, September 8, 2010
- Mark Harrison: Affidavit of Mark I. Harrison, September 8, 2010
- Allison L. McCarthy (2010). "The May 12, 2008 Postville, Iowa Immigration Raid: A Human Rights Perspective" (PDF). University of Iowa College of Law. Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 19:293. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 3, 2010.
- The Postville Project Luther College and University of Northern Iowa
- Robert Steinbuch & Brett Tolman: Justice denied National Law Journal, August 16, 2010
- Seth Waxman Amicus Brief Signed by 86 Former Federal Judges & DOJ Officials, May 4, 2012
- NACDL Amicus Brief, May 4, 2012
- WLF Amicus Brief, May 4, 2012
- APRL Amicus Brief, May 4, 2012
- 40 Legal Ethics Professors Amicus Brief, May 4, 2012
- Justice Fellowship Amicus Brief, May 4, 2012
- Conrad Black The Rubashkin Case: A Mockery of Justice
- Editorial: Did federal prosecutors railroad Rubashkin?, Des Moines Register, May 23, 2016