Monday, May 20, 2024

Congressmen’s Letters to AG Mark Turning Point in Rubashkin Case

There was a time when one hesitated to publicly state the obvious about the Rubashkin case: that it reeked of corruption. Even those incensed about the railroading of justice that climaxed in a 27-year jail sentence for “paper crimes” that hurt no one felt compelled to couch their outrage in diplomatic jargon. They called dishonest prosecutors “overzealous” and their illegal tactics “heavy-handed.” They questioned Judge Linda Reade's impartiality and mean-spiritedness, stopping short of accusing her of collaborating with vindictive prosecutors to strip Sholom Mordechai of his right to a fair trial. But all that has changed. The whispering and tiptoeing about the truth is a thing of the past. In letters to Attorney General Eric Holder, a number of congressmen have abandoned the foggy language of political correctness, choosing to speak out sharply about a case they say cries out for investigation. New York Rep. Anthony Weiner led the way, informing Holder in September of “credible allegations of impropriety and unfairness in the Rubashkin case” and urging the Attorney General to investigate.

“The allegations of judicial and governmental misconduct that have emerged publicly are deeply troubling and clearly warrant a full investigation by your office,” Weiner wrote.


Congressman Weiner’s letter followed the emergency filing of a motion for mistrial, Motion 33, by Sholom Mordechai’s defense team, which is still awaiting an answer from Judge Reade.


Motion 33 was based on disclosures in government FOIA documents that revealed pre-trial collaboration between Reade and Iowa prosecutors spanning the six-month period that led up to the Postville ICE raid.


“Chief Judge Linda Reade was repeatedly consulted by law-enforcement agents and prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office [who then brought Rubashkin’s case to trial before her]. The judge offered to help in any way possible,” Wiener’s letter advised Holder.


Rep. Weiner’s Protests Echoed by Colleagues


Weiner’s protests to Holder were echoed by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) earlier this month, and most recently by Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), whose letter reflects a strikingly in-depth review of the case.


The Rubashkin case “raises very serious issues of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, resulting in an unfair and grossly disparate sentence,” Delahunt wrote.


Delanunt went on to describe the reaction in legal circles to the draconian 27-year sentence imposed by Judge Reade. “The sentence was denounced by lawyers and legal scholars, “including six former U.S. attorneys general, who had publicly called on the trial judge to impose a fair sentence,” the letter said.


Ignoring the pleas for fairness, the judge imposed a sentence greater than even the prosecutors were seeking, Delahunt advised Holder, “and far greater than sentences imposed on others convicted of far more serious crimes.”


Letter Lays Bare Flagrant Abuse of Power


Reflecting a growing public awareness of the foul play that wreaked havoc in the lives of Sholom Mordechai and his family, Delahunt traced some of the most flagrant abuses of prosecutorial and judicial power committed in the case.


His letter lays bare, in shocking detail, the process by which the government and the judge together engineered Sholom Mordechai’s virtual life sentence.


Although this deplorable conduct on the part of the judge and prosecutors was previously reported in Yated, loosely referred to as the “No Rubashkin Edict,” it never made much of an impact on the public consciousness.


Delahunt’s letter is striking in that it represents the first time the federal government’s scheme to destroy Agriprocessors, bring the Rubashkin family to ruin, and incarcerate Sholom Mordechai for life has been officially acknowledged by a respected government statesman.


This marks a turning point in a case that for all its importance to the American public, in terms of the gross abuse of power it chronicles, continues to be underreported by the media.


Delahunt’s letter takes Holder back to the critical period following the May 2008 raid, when “as a result of the raid, the Agriprocessors firm went into bankruptcy. The government then deliberately hampered the ability of the trustee to sell the company’s considerable assets at a fair price, in order to minimize any loss to the Iowa bank that had extended the company credit,” Delahunt wrote.


“Moreover, the government unnecessarily included a forfeiture clause in the initial, immigration-based indictment; this also dramatically reduced the marketability of the plant’s assets.


“The government also substantially reduced the value of Agriprocessors after it went into bankruptcy, by preventing potential purchasers from having any association with members of the Rubashkin family, including those not accused of any crime.”


In line with its scheme to cause Agriprocessors to shut down, “the government trustee further lowered the value of Agriprocessors by mishandling inventory at the Postville plant,” the letter elaborated.


[The government trustee, Joel Sarachek, reportedly confided to the OU’s Rabbi Menachem Genack that he was explicitly instructed by Assistant Attorney Richard Murphy’s office to let Agriprocessors shut down.]


Manipulating the Sentencing Guidelines


Since the sentencing guidelines in white-collar crimes calculate a jail sentence based on financial loss, the government-orchestrated decrease in the value of Agriprocessors (leading to the failure of the lender bank to recover its money) significantly inflated the “loss amount” for Sentencing Guidelines purposes.


“In short, these deliberate steps by the government had the effect of significantly boosting Rubashkin’s Sentencing Guideline numbers, in order to provide justification for the judge to impose an excessive and disproportionate sentence,” the Delahunt letter explained.


[The government’s scheme to force the collapse of Agriprocessors was never meant to be exposed to public scrutiny. The exposure came about unexpectedly, much to the government’s chagrin, at the May 2010 sentencing hearings in Cedar Rapids. See sidebar.]


Leaving no stone unturned, Rep. Delahunt went on to enumerate “other troubling aspects of this case,” including the ex parte discussions the presiding judge engaged in with the Office of the United States Attorney and immigration officials and the concealment of these activities from the defense.


Delahunt said that the Justice Department’s unwillingness to date to inquire into the Iowa prosecutors’ conduct is “distressing in itself.” He singled out Lanny Breuer, head of the Criminal Division, for “passing the buck back to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Iowa.”


Breuer has responded to requests by the defense team to review the rampant irregularities and injustices in the case by advising Sholom Mordechai’s lawyers “to raise their concerns with prosecutors assigned to the case” – the very individuals responsible for the gross perversion of justice.


So cynical a response from Breuer, a son of Holocaust survivors who should be especially sensitive to persecution, has been greatly disheartening.


As Motion 33 filters down to the public, and as revelations of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in the case draw increasing scrutiny from congressmen as well as legal scholars, the case is becoming an embarrassment to the highest law enforcement and judicial offices in Iowa.


Hopes remain high that the case will be turned over for review by an impartial judge who will grant Sholom Mordechai a new trial, and that pending a new trial, he will be immediately freed.


If Motion 33 is denied, it will be consolidated with the appeal, whose deadline was extended by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals until November 18.



A letter to editor of the LA Jewish Journal, published in May 2010, describes dramatic disclosures in a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, courtroom that exposed government scheming against Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin. The disclosures took place at the April sentencing hearing. Excerpts from the letter by an eyewitness follow


Dear Editor:


The media’s preoccupation with the Rubashkin state labor trial guarantees no one will pay attention to some highly sensitive information revealed at the sentencing hearing just a few weeks ago in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And that is exactly what the Iowa prosecutors are counting on.


I refer to the disclosures that knocked out a key pillar of the government’s claim that Sholom Rubashkin defrauded a lender bank of $26 million.


Observers in the Cedar Rapids courtroom last month were shocked to witness this claim unravel, as defense witnesses lifted the veil on actions by the Iowa U.S. Attorney’s office that directly caused the bank’s huge financial losses.


Their testimony showed that after Agriprocessors went bankrupt, the government prevented its sale to qualified buyers until it was so devalued, it was worth pennies on the dollar. At that point, the sale of the plant could no longer bring in enough capital to repay the bank its collateral.


Sholom Rubashkin was then accused of “defrauding” the bank of $26 million, although had the government not repeatedly blocked the company’s sale, this money would have been recovered.


The evidence of government orchestration in Agriprocessors’ collapse was apparently so threatening to the prosecutor’s case that the lead prosecutor, Peter Deegan, sought to suppress it by having two government witnesses lie about it.


Yet it was impossible to bury this particular truth. The would-be buyers themselves confirmed it under oath. Both testified that they had been threatened by U.S. Attorney Richard Murphy with government forfeiture and prosecution were they to keep anyone from the Rubashkin family in their management after buying the plant.


They said that the threat of government forfeiture, coupled with the injunction against hiring any of the foremost experts in the kosher slaughter industry, drove them away. (A sworn affidavit by another potential buyer showed that the bank itself rejected a lucrative offer of $22 million in cash payments.)


Other witnesses testified that the government trustee deliberately destroyed inventory and neglected opportunities to collect millions in receivables.


What is so powerful about this testimony is that it exposes the prosecutors’ recommended sentence of 25 years, based on a $26 million fraud, as totally fraudulent.


Granted it is difficult to send a reporter down to Iowa. But this is no ordinary case and should not be treated in the routine way your paper gathers its news – by merely echoing the leading news wires. One would hope that you would make it a priority to cut to the heart of the story.


Your readers deserve to know the truth about how Sholom Rubashkin is being scapegoated by Iowa prosecutors who are abusing the powers of office. At this stage, misinformation and confusion about this case are still widespread.


“But he did something wrong. Shouldn’t he have to pay the penalty?” one hears people say.


There is little comprehension of the fact that the sinister crimes attributed to Sholom Rubashkin have nothing to do with the relatively minor offense that took place under his watch – in which the company borrowed more money from its credit line than it was entitled to borrow.


In the earliest stages of the Holocaust, SS roundups in Germany began with Jews listed in municipal records as having committed traffic violations. These people were arrested, convicted of trumped-up charges in kangaroo courts and dragged off to Dachau and other slave-labor camps. Granted they had committed traffic violations, yet would any of us hesitate to protest that they were innocent?


The point is, once it’s become clear that federal officials used lies and legal tricks to turn a minor offense into a massive $26 million fraud, the spotlight should be trained on the government officials themselves who belong in the dock for this disgraceful misconduct.


Where is your outrage at this modern-day lynching of a fellow Jew? Where is the relentless probing for the truth, the anguish, the passion and the eloquence in reporting on this travesty of justice?


Where is the moral courage needed in charting a proper course for rank-and-file American Jews who look to you for a correct reading of events?


Naomi Reich

Monsey, N.Y.



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