Tuesday, Sep 21, 2021

Solitary Confinement in Black Hawk County:

The Never-Ending Persecution of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin In the latest chapter of a bitter, never-ending persecution, Sholom Mordechai was brought to court in Waterloo, Iowa, Tuesday for the preliminary proceedings in a state trial on child-labor charges, not having eaten for 24 hours. Arriving at the jail in Black Hawk County, where he was supposed to be incarcerated for the duration of 3-week trial, he was forced through a repetition of what he endured immediately at the close of his November-December trial in North Dakota. No provisions had been made for kosher food; his yarmulka, tzitzis were removed for being outside “regulations,” and his talis, tefillin and seforim were confiscated.

He was handcuffed and led into an elevator, where he was pushed, or fell, and refused to get up and walk with his head uncovered. Guards carried him to his cell. In response to what jail authorities called “argumentative” behavior for asking calmly that his religious rights be honored, he was forced into solitary confinement, in a dirty seven-by-ten cell.

The next morning, in the Waterloo courtroom, his lawyer, Montgomery Brown, explained to Judge Nathan Callahan about his client’s religious dietary restrictions and other religious obligations. He was finally allowed kosher food brought from Postville. But Callahan refused to render any decisions on the matter of Sholom Mordechai’s religious rights to his ritual garments, items and books.

Callahan had already denied Brown’s request for a trial delay. Brown said pre-trial publicity from Rubashkin’s sentencing hearing last week on federal financial fraud crimes, as well as an article in Monday’s Des Moines Register, could prejudice the jury.

Brown also argued he needed more time to investigate several videotaped interviews because they were just provided to him by prosecutors last Friday. The tapes show three potential witnesses, despite repeated questioning, telling investigators they do not know if Rubashkin knew underage workers were at the plant, Brown said.

Callahan said jury selection would continue this week and the trial will begin on Monday, May 10.

Judge Callahan said Iowa law does not require Rubashkin to be present during the trial, so it will proceed without him, if necessary. “I’m not trying to be disrespectful of anybody’s religious traditions or beliefs,” he said. “But I’m not derailing this proceeding because of [the prisoner’s] choice.

Legal experts have noted that “choice” is not the operative word when speaking of matters of religious obligations and conscience.  The requests made by Sholom Mordechai fall well within the purview of prisoner’s religious rights, they said.

Finally, thankfully, on Tuesday evening, Sholom Mordechai ben Rivka was returned to Linn County jail, where he has been incarcerated since November.

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