Judge refuses to drop charges against Rubashkin
BY GRANT SCHULTE • Des Moines Register
A federal judge refused to dismiss charges Thursday against a former Postville slaughterhouse executive and rejected claims that prosecutors abused their power to collect witness statements.
The ruling was a loss for Sholom Rubashkin, a one-time executive at the former Agriprocessors Inc. kosher meat plant in northeast Iowa.
Rubashkin's lawyers asked a judge in August to dismiss all 163 charges against Rubashkin, on the grounds that prosecutors improperly used grand jury hearings to "lock in" witness testimony. Defense lawyers, who were not present for the private hearings, argued they were not given the opportunity to cross-examine those witnesses.
The U.S. attorneys prosecuting Rubashkin opposed the request to dismiss charges. Their specific response, however, was filed under a court-ordered seal to keep details of the grand jury hearings confidential.
Rubashkin's attorney, Guy Cook, said Rubashkin "denies the charges in spite of the ruling." Defense lawyers filed new papers Thursday asking U.S. District Judge Linda Reade to reconsider her decision.
Rubashkin and three lower-level managers are named in a 163-count federal indictment filed in July. The allegations, aimed mostly at Rubashkin and Agriprocessors, include bank fraud, immigrant harboring, mail and wire fraud, and failure to pay cattle producers in a timely manner.
Rubashkin has pleaded not guilty, and is scheduled to stand for the first of two trials on Oct. 13.
Agriprocessors Inc. was the site of a May 2008 immigration raid that snagged 389 illegal workers and led to state and federal charges against Rubashkin and other managers. The plant now operates under new management.