Rav Lipschutz decried the perversion of justice that characterizes this case, and exposed some of the governmentâ€™s lies and unscrupulous tactics that have fueled it from the very beginning (see sidebar).
Rav Ephraim Wachsman, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Meor Yitzchok in Monsey, spoke of the chains of golus that rattle beneath the facade of freedom in this country, and drove home the anguished enkas osir, the soul-shattering sobs of the incarcerated.
How searing for all of Klal Yisroel, he said, to witness the degradation of one of its finest sons, one whose chesed and ahavas Yisroel made him a legend in his own time.
He slammed the arrogance of a judge who turned her back on pleas for leniency coming from prominent former attorneys-general, including foremost legal experts who helped write the very laws being exploited to lynch Sholom Mordechai.
Rav Wachsman singled out for their cruelty the animal rights activists of PETA, who made the first â€œbreach in the wallâ€ of Agriprocessors, citing their public gloating over the virtual life sentence imposed on Sholom Mordechai.
He stressed the supreme importance of pidyon shvuyim, citing Rav Chaim Kanievskyâ€™s and Rav Aharon Leib Shteinmanâ€™s pâ€™sak that Sholom Mordechaiâ€™s case clearly merits this appellation.
The Honorable Mr. Bob Barr, a former presidential candidate and congressman who is assisting the appellate team, riveted the audience with his call to â€œstand up for justice at a time of moral crisis.â€
He cited June 22, when Judge Linda Reade imposed her draconian sentence of 27 years as a â€œday of infamyâ€ that will long taint American history.
â€˜A DECLARATION OF WARâ€™
Mr. Barr called Judge Readeâ€™s sentencing order â€œa declaration of war on justice, fairness and equality,â€ and said that it should be required reading for anyone in this country who cares about justice.
â€œWhen the government fails in its duty,â€ he said, â€œyou cannot remain neutral. You must get into the arena and fight for those who have been denied justice. And it canâ€™t be just a one-time effort, a single rally, a single protest. That would be letting Sholom and his family down. That would be letting ourselves down, as well.â€
Stating that the road to justice would be long, arduous and costly, Mr. Barr said he was nevertheless optimistic because of a scene he witnessed in the courtroom, sitting behind Sholom Mordechai when the sentence was issued.
â€œI watched as Sholom got up and turned around to his family and smiled. Some were crying and he smiled at them, and he urged them to smile, too. The strength in that single smile, the inner strength it took for him to urge his family to be strong, surpasses the power of the officials who denied him justice.â€
Mr. Barr stressed the importance of turning up the heat in a vigorous campaign to win public recognition for the merits of Sholom Mordechaiâ€™s cause. The appellate team will do the legal work, he said, but the community needs to support that effort with all the resources at their disposal.
â€œSholom Rubashkin has to become a poster child for injustice in America,â€ he said. â€œHis name and his cause have to resonate across the media and the airwaves, so that people in positions of power and influence hear about him and start to care, because the public cares.â€
â€œWhether through articles, letters, speeches, gatherings, the campaign has to stay in high-gearâ€¦ There are many roads to justice and itâ€™s vital to have â€˜soldiersâ€™ going down every one of them,â€ the former presidential candidate said.
BEDROCK OF FAITH
The final speaker, Râ€™ Getzel Rubashkin, spoke about how our world is an olam hafuch, where the bizarre reversal in the way things should rightfully be can overwhelm and confuse us.
â€œThe wicked are powerful and the righteous are persecuted. Standing upside down for too long in such a world, you can lose your balance,â€ he said.
In such a time, he said, â€œâ€˜Lulei Sorascha shaâ€™ashuai, az ovadeti beâ€™onyi – If not for Your Torah, I would have perished in my torment.â€™ Our strength and endurance comes from knowing that the Torah is true, that there is one Ribono Shel Olam, and everything – even the crazy, upside down olam hafuch – comes from a single Source.â€
â€œI miss my fatherâ€¦ my family misses him soâ€¦. My father misses his family. Itâ€™s very painful,â€ Râ€™ Getzel continued. â€œI donâ€™t pretend to be able to make sense of this upside down universe, but I donâ€™t have to. The bedrock of faith is not to understand, but kabbolas ol and mesirus nefesh.
â€œVerdicts and rulings from powerful officials are only illusions of power,â€ he said. â€œWhen we see through those illusions, and they no longer strikes fear into us, thatâ€™s one sign that geulah is around the corner.â€
THE GOVERNMENTâ€™S WIN-WIN STRATEGY
According to the federal sentencing guidelines governing white-collar crime, the factors that determine the length of a prison sentence in a fraud case is the magnitude of loss caused by the defendant. To lock up Sholom Mordechai for at least twenty years, prosecutors had to find a way to show that he caused $20 million in losses or more.
Hereâ€™s how they did it.
They found a legal mechanism to manipulate the loss amount. They imposed an injunction forbidding prospective buyers of the $85 million company to hire any Rubashkin family member in a newly owned meat plant.
Prosecutors made sure that bidders for the plant knew that the government had a weapon to ensure compliance with this â€œNo-Rubashkin edict.â€ That weapon consisted of the governmentâ€™s right to impose forfeiture of the plant and all of Agriprocessorsâ€™ assets, including name brands, property and machinery. This warning was spelled out by assistant U.S. attorney Richard Murphy in documents filed with the bankruptcy court.
A number of reputable businessmen, Meir Eichler, Mordechai Kork and Fred Goldfein, signed affidavits to the effect that government officials warned them that they could seize the business if anyone named Rubashkin were hired in a managerial capacity. One such businessman, Yechiel Cohen, came from Minnesota to the sentencing hearing in Cedar Rapids to testify in person regarding these intimidation tactics.
In the face of these threats, bidders and investors were forced to back off. On the one hand, every potential purchaser felt that he could not operate the plant successfully without help from the former owners. On the other hand, what reasonable person would risk having their multi-million dollar purchase forfeited by the government?
The â€œNo-Rubashkinâ€ edict and threats of forfeiture succeeded according to government plan. Responsible parties have attested that the trustee, Joe Sarachek himself, told people that government officials urged him not to sell the plant and to let it shut down.
Agriprocessors thus became so devalued that it was worth pennies on the dollar. Its eventual sale, at $8,500,000, could no longer pay back the bank loan. That loss of money was then blamed on Sholom Mordechai.
That is how it came to pass that Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin was convicted of causing a bank to lose $26 million. The loss amount, manipulated by the government, was then used, in combination with other trumped up charges to â€œjustifyâ€ a 27-year sentence.
When the defense sought to shine the light of truth on this sinister scheme in court, a government-appointed lawyer simply denied it. There never was any such thing as a â€œNo-Rubashkinâ€ injunction, she said. And the judge, in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, decided to make that the final word.
It is unquestionably a matter of public record that Rubashkins were to be boycotted from the business as per government order. It was a known fact in the business and legal community, and the press carried reports of this injunction against the Rubashkins.
Consider the following two excerpts from news articles around the time of bankruptcy and sale of Agriprocessors:
From the Waterloo Courier, January, 2009:
State officials, including Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, have said they want to find a buyer for the plant and believe it is vital for Postville’s economy. But Judge said in December that it was unacceptable for the Rubashkin family to continue to be involved with the plant.
From Des Moines Register: July 21, 2009:
The buyer, SHF Industries, filed papers Monday swearing that it had no connection to the previous owners.
The government’s denial of something so well-established, and the judge’s acceptance of this lie in the face of so much overwhelming evidence, is an outrage that cries out to the heavens. As Rabbi Lipschutz underscored in his speech in Lakewood, â€œThe governmentâ€™s denial of the â€˜Rubashkin boycottâ€™ is a powerful giveaway that the Feds know that their actions were unethical and could get them in trouble.â€
Recall a time when Jews or blacks and other minorities were being blacklisted from universities, institutions and professions? It was something everyone knew about. It was verified by press reports, the applicants themselves were being summarily rejected, and the smoking gun – official documentation of the blacklisting – was a matter of record.
In the face of this mountain of evidence, imagine an apologist or spokesman standing up and saying it never happened. It’s a rumor. It’s your imagination.
That is essentially what happened here. How could the government deny something so well-established? But it shouldn’t shock us. Because falsehood and fabrication lie at the very heart of this case. Lies and truth-twisting began with the affidavit and the seven superseding indictments, and have run straight through the trial and sentencing.
Supporters of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin are demanding a judicial review of his prosecution, trial and sentencing. For growing numbers of people, only when the shameful corruption in his case comes to light will public trust in American justice be restored.