Sunday, May 26, 2024

Life? How Can They?

Capping almost a half century of what is colloquially referred to as the golden years of American Jewry, a Jew in this country is about to be figuratively burned at the stake. As the saga of the United States vs. Sholom Rubashkin enters the sentencing phase, it's become apparent that this grotesque parody of justice is about to culminate in an outcome that sends shudders through anyone familiar with the case. The government is poised to lock up Sholom Mordechai for life - for life - for the “paper” crimes for which he was convicted. The actual sentence will be formally handed down on April 28 by Judge Linda Reade, after pre-sentencing recommendations have been forwarded by the prosecutor and probation officer. These government officers have already clearly staked out their positions. The prosecutor recommended 22-27 years imprisonment, which the probation officer, whose job is to arrive at an appropriate sentence by reviewing the total picture, jacked up to the most extreme sentence possible short of the death penalty: life imprisonment. Virtual life imprisonment has thus been ratcheted up to actual life imprisonment, absolutely unheard of in this country for a first-time, white collar offense.

Hearing about the government’s sinister plans for Sholom Mordechai left most people dumbfounded. “This is a modern-day lynching of a good man while covering up the atrocity with shallow legalities,” one person wrote in a petition to U.S. District Attorney Stephanie Rose that carried over 21,000 signatures.


Sholom Mordechai’s attorney agreed. “This case has never been about actual federal crimes committed with intent,” said Guy Cook in a phone interview with Yated. “This is a case of people buying into intense prejudice against someone wrongly viewed as a crafty Jewish businessman from New York who made his fortune on the backs of exploited Hondurans and Guatemalans. That image couldn’t be further from the truth, but such is the power of prejudice.”


Cook, who previously functioned in the role of U.S. attorney, said that most people don’t understand how the federal criminal system works. He said that prosecutors have enormous power, surpassing that of judges and juries, and the way prosecutors craft the indictment determines the final sentence.


Even in cases where a defendant is acquitted of most of the charges, the court, based on the prosecutor’s original indictment, can hand down a stiff sentence based on what it perceives as the “total offense picture.”


That picture can include a host of negative allegations that the defendant was never convicted of in court – or even charged with. As long as it is part of some government memo somewhere -perhaps some rumor mentioned in an FBI report or in front of a grand jury, it can be used to legitimize whatever jail sentence or monetary fine the prosecutor and probation officer want to impose.


“To seek a life sentence for the crimes he was charged with is absolutely unprecedented and ridiculous,” Cook said. “The absurdity of the federal sentencing guidelines is on full display in the Rubashkin case.”


Federal sentencing guidelines are not meant to be binding and mandatory, but the prosecutor and probation officer in this case are using the system to run up the highest number of “points” possible, he explained. “They are using every trick available to multiply and increase the number of years of incarceration.”


What is so disturbing is the way outright lies have been referenced in the probation officer’s report and used to justify draconian sentence recommendations based on the “total offense picture.”


One of these lies concerns testimony – never given in court – by a Hispanic worker that he “overheard” two Agriprocessors managers discussing their orders to rehire a number of employees who had been fired due to lack of valid papers but who now had been helped to acquire better false papers. [The allegation that Sholom Mordechai called for the financing of false papers and the rehiring of illegal immigrants holding these papers was one of the most destructive libels circulated by the government against him in the pre-trial period.]


As it turns out, the two mangers were Hosam Amara, an Israeli Arab, and an Israeli Jew named Levi. Both men’s grasp of English is poor. They conversed with each other in the language in which they were both fluent – Hebrew. The Hispanic worker who claimed to have overheard them could not possibly have known what they were saying.


Yet this false testimony, along with scores of other false allegations and insinuations, were cited in the probation report as justification for recommending that Sholom Mordechai be subjected to the most severe punishment possible. Although the defense team submitted memorandums totaling over a hundred pages disputing and disproving these allegations, Guy Cook and other members of the defense team say they do not believe their arguments will be weighed objectively.


“I am convinced that the extremist-minded prosecution is infected by Sholom Rubashkin’s differentness,” said a member of the defense team. “The strangeness of a kosher plant and its Jewish bearded owners was to these intolerant men like gasoline to the arsonist. The religious and cultural uniqueness has warped their ethics.”


The growing awareness that the relentless and vindictive treatment of Sholom Mordechai is about to culminate in a life sentence should alarm every American Jew. Sholom Mordechai’s case reflects the proverbial “canary-in-the-coal mine,” an unofficial barometer for gauging the presence of anti-Semitism.


When the canary in the coal mine sickens, that is a sure sign that the atmosphere in the coal mine has turned toxic.



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