Rubashkin plays the Holocaust Card. But will this be enough to get Rubashkin's trial moved?
Rubashkin case consultant cites Jewish bias
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 his lawyers said Monday.
Defense lawyers argued that a judge should dismiss all charges against the former Postville meatpacking executive because of "flawed and biased" statements made by grand jury witnesses and federal prosecutors last year.
Federal prosecutors denied any wrongdoing, defended the charges and questioned the consultant's expertise. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Berry said Rubashkin's lawyers had twisted snippets of the private grand jury hearing out of context.
The back-and-forth came during a U.S. District Court hearing on motions to dismiss the charges against Rubashkin, the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant and plant manager Brent Beebe.
In May, federal agents raided the kosher plant and detained 389 suspected illegal immigrant workers. Rubashkin's arrest came five months after the raid, which has left Postville and the surrounding area struggling.
Defense lawyer Guy Cook argued that members of the grand jury that charged Rubashkin were exposed to negative Jewish stereotypes, which influenced their decision to indict the former executive.
Lawyers for Rubashkin and Agriprocessors also asked a judge to move the case out of Iowa and divide it into three trials. James Clarity, a lawyer for Agriprocessors, said heavy publicity had created an atmosphere in Iowa similar to Nazi-occupied Poland.
Rubashkin, 49, is a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch branch of Orthodox Judaism, a conservative movement based in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was arrested in October as part of a federal crackdown on alleged immigration violations, bank fraud and other crimes at Agriprocessors. He was freed on bond last month from the Dubuque County Jail. He also faces state charges alleging labor violations.
Patricia Kuehn, a jury consultant from suburban Chicago, testified that "racial, cultural and religious matters" presented to the grand jury tainted its perception of Rubashkin.
One witness made reference to a stereotype that Jews never collect loan interest from fellow Jews, Kuehn said.
"Jurors believed it was appropriate to use these stereotypes because they were allowed to be used," Kuehn said during the four-hour hearing. "It then influences the information they are taking in. Jurors take in and exclude information based on their preconceived notions."
The testimony at one point made light of a "Jewish guy with a small hat and a beard," Kuehn said. She said another witness, an unidentified Baptist minister, reportedly told the grand jury that "I am like you" when asked about his religion.
Federal prosecutors countered that Kuehn, who was paid $2,500 to review the grand jury transcript, did not read all of the information relevant to the case.
U.S. District Judge Linda Reade allowed Kuehn to study the transcript, but forbade her from viewing other private documents.
Kuehn also made reference to stereotypes that were not necessarily negative, Berry said.
"If the court does find bias - and I submit it will not - then the defendant still has to prove prejudice," he said. "The expert's opinion doesn't show actual prejudice" from the grand jury, he added.
Cook said prosecutors failed to sway Kuehn's opinion of the case or counter her statements with any witness of their own.
Rubashkin's lawyers also urged Reade to move the trial to Chicago or Minneapolis, citing "extensive and inflammatory" media coverage and blog posts about the case.
Reade did not rule on any of the matters on Monday.
As I pointed out yesterday, the Code of Jewish Law, Shulkhan Arukh, forbids Jews from taking interest on loans from other Jews. To call this a stereotype is wrong, and anyone claiming to be an expert on jury bias should know this. The Kuehn did not know this – or misrepresented it – says much about her expertise.