Jewish stereotypes influenced a grand jury’s decision to indict Sholom Rubashkin, Patricia Kuehn testified.
Defense consultant: Jewish stereotypes played role in jury
By GRANT SCHULTE • Des Moines Register
Cedar Rapids, Ia. – Jewish stereotypes likely influenced a grand jury’s decision to indict Sholom Rubashkin on 97 federal charges, a consultant hired by defense lawyers said today.
Patricia Kuehn, an Illinois-based jury consultant, testified that “racial, cultural and religious matters” raised with grand jury members gradually shaped their perception of Rubashkin, a former executive at Agriprocessors in Postville. Rubashkin is a Hasidic Jew, a branch of Orthodox Judaism.
Federal prosecutors vigorously challenged Kuehn’s statements and alleged that defense lawyers had twisted snippets of the grand jury hearing out of context.
The three-hour hearing in U.S. District Court revealed pieces of otherwise confidential grand jury testimony. One witness made reference to a stereotype that Jews never collect loan interest from fellow Jews, Kuehn said.
The testimony at one point made light of a “Jewish guy with a small hat and a beard,” Kuehn said. Another witness, an unidentified Baptist minister, reportedly told the jury that “I am like you” when asked about his religion.
Defense lawyers argued that, over time, members of the grand jury began to associate Rubashkin with negative Jewish stereotypes, which then influenced their decision to indict the former plant executive.
Rubashkin faces 97 federal charges tied to alleged bank fraud, immigration fraud and failure to pay his cattle producers. His arrest came roughly five months after federal agents raided the kosher meat plant and detained 389 suspected illegal immigrant workers.
Federal prosecutors countered that Kuehn, who was paid $2,500 to review the grand jury transcript and several studies, did not review all of the information relevant to the case. Kuehn also made reference to stereotypes that were not necessarily negative, and could not have known what specifically jurors were thinking, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean R. Berry.
“If the court does find bias – and I submit it will not – then the defendant still has to prove prejudice,” Berry said. “The expert’s opinion doesn’t show actual prejudice.”
Even if the jury had been biased, Berry said, prosecutors also presented bank records and scores of witnesses to bolster their case.
The testimony came during a series of motion hearings in U.S. District Court. Lawyers this morning argued over whether to move Rubashkin’s trial to Chicago or Minneapolis because of negative pretrial publicity.
Lawyers will reconvene this afternoon to argue whether to split the charges into three separate cases that would be tried separately.
U.S. District Judge Linda Reade has not ruled on any of the issues.