Jury consultant says these "stereotypes" leave "no other option but to be prejudiced."
Rubashkin's lawyers claim prejudice, want change of venue
By Erika Binegar, The Gazette
CEDAR RAPIDS — An Illinois-based trial consultant testified Monday that cultural and religious stereotypes likely influenced a grand jury's decision to indict Sholom Rubashkin, the former vice president of Agriprocessors.
Patricia Kuehn, who was hired by defense lawyers, said during a hearing in federal court that she based her opinion on research of jury behavior and a digest of excerpts from grand jury testimony, which was provided by Rubashkin's attorneys.
She said stereotypes included a description of Rubashkin, who is a Hasidic Jew, as a "Jewish guy with a small hat and a beard," and a comment that Jews don't collect interest on loans to other Jews.
Federal prosecutors argued that Kuehn based her opinion on snippets of a lengthy grand jury testimony, challenged whether the stereotypes she identified could have influenced the jury's opinion on criminal activity, and asked the court to deny the defense's motion to dismiss all counts against Rubashkin because it failed to prove prejudice.
"The defendant's indictment was not based on his religion — it was based on evidence," Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Berry argued.
Rubashkin, 49, of Postville, faces 98 federal counts stemming from a May 12 immigration raid at the Postville meatpacking plant.
The charges include bank fraud, money laundering, identity theft and harboring and aiding and abetting illegal workers.
On Monday, defense attorneys also asked the court to conduct three separate trials, rather than try five defendants on 99 counts at once. They argued there's no common scheme among the charges and worried one large trial would be confusing to jurors.
Federal prosecutors argued in favor of one trial, saying fraudulent conduct underlies all of the charges and the evidence is interconnected.
Rubashkin's attorneys also argued Monday for a change of venue for his September trial because of extensive pretrial publicity. They suggested either Minneapolis or Chicago.
Guy Cook, Rubashkin's Des Moines attorney, cited newspaper columns, radio segments and comments posted to online articles to illustrate his argument that people have already made up their minds on Rubashkin's guilt.
When U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade challenged whether such media coverage was unusual, Cook argued that it was. He argued Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, too, appears to have drawn conclusions of guilt.
"We submit that all this publicity is permeated with hostility," Cook said. "(Rubashkin) has already been convicted in the court of public opinion."
Assistant U.S. Attorney C.J. Williams argued that publicity has been balanced, and noted the defense did not poll potential jurors to see if media coverage has affected them.
"They've done nothing to provide the court with evidence to make that jump," he said.
Williams added that Rubashkin's lawyers did not address the steps the court can take to ensure a fair trial, such as setting aside four days for jury selection, which the court already has done.
Reade did not rule on any of the issues Monday.
Just for the record, Orthodox Jews are forbidden by Jewish law from lending money to fellow Jews with interest. This is not a stereotype – it is an absolute fact.
And Sholom M. Rubashkin is a "Jewish guy" who has both a beard and a small hat, as you can see in the above pictures.
Rubashkin's religion comes into play because the business raided is a kosher food business that markets to Orthodox Jews. Its principals – including Rubashkin – are Orthodox Jews.
If Rubashkin gets the charges dropped based on this, you can be sure the US Attorney did a job so poor it itself should be criminal.