Prosecutors ask for some charges to be dismissed against Agriprocessors managers
BY GRANT SCHULTE • Des Moines Register
Iowa prosecutors asked a judge today to dismiss 110 child-labor charges against top Postville slaughterhouse managers, because one underage worker turned 18 before some of the alleged violations took place.
The Iowa Attorney General’s office agreed Monday to drop 110 of the 9,311 counts against Agriprocessors Inc., its managers and several employees in the plant’s human resources department. The defendants will now face 9,201 counts each, once a judge agrees to dismiss the charges.
Charged with child-labor violations are former plant executive Sholom Rubashkin; his father, Aaron Abraham Rubashkin; and human resource employees Laura Althouse, Elizabeth Billmeyer and Karina Freund.
Prosecutors also sought to dismiss 110 of the 954 counts against Jeffrey Heasley, a plant supervisor. Heasley now faces 844 child-labor charges.
The motion to dismiss the charges revolves around one plant worker, and one charge for each day the young person worked. In a statement, Iowa Attorney General spokesman Bob Brammer said prosecutors accidentally counted 55 days in early 2008 after the worker’s 18th birthday.
Prosecutors discovered the error and sought to dismiss 55 counts of two charges: allegations that plant managers let an underage person work at the slaughterhouse, and accusations that they exposed the young worker to dangerous or poisonous chemical.
The charges involve 32 youths under age 18, prosecutors have said. Seven of the workers were allegedly younger than 16.
Prosecutors allege that the workers were exposed to poisonous chemicals, such as chlorine solutions, and dangerous substances, such as dry ice. Some were employed to operate power-driven machinery such as conveyor belts, meat grinders, circular saws, power washers and shears.
Leaders at Agriprocessors said the youths lied about their age to get hired. Everyone charged with the state child-labor violations has pleaded not guilty.
Each child-labor violation is a simple misdemeanor that carries a maximum 30-day jail sentence and a fine of up to $625.
A trial date has not been set.