Attorneys file for mistrial in Agriprocessors executive's case
By JENS MANUEL KROGSTAD • Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. --- Attorneys of former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin filed a motion for a mistrial this morning after a key government witness divulged details of illegal immigrants working at the company.
Defense lawyer Guy Cook said by allowing the court to allow so much testimony about the alleged hiring and harboring of illegal immigrants at the Northeast Iowa kosher meat plant, the bank fraud case currently on trial would suffer from a "death by a thousand cuts."
Defense attorneys took exception to the amount of details allowed, because U.S. District Judge Linda Reade had split the trial into two parts.
Rubashkin is on trial for 91 fraud charges, which will be followed by a separate trial on 72 immigration charges. As part of the fraud charges, the government alleges Rubashkin lied to the plant's bank by failing to mention the company had illegal immigrants on staff.
In her decision, Reade said to allow all charges at once could unfairly prejudice the jury, allowing evidence for one group of charges to be applied to others. Reade also said she expected it to be difficult for a jury to compartmentalize damaging information.
The development had a visible effect on Rubashkin, who managed a few brief smiles with his attorneys when not taking notes.
On Tuesday, former human resources manager Elizabeth Billmeyer testified in detail that Rubashkin, a former plant executive, knew of illegal immigrants working at the plant for several years but did nothing.
The government presented evidence the company received no-match letters from the government --- notification its employees did not have matching Social Security numbers --- for several hundred employees, as well as a sharply worded e-mail from Billmeyer warning Rubashkin that people could go to jail if nothing was done.
On cross-examination today, defense attorney F. Montgomery Brown sought to blame Billmeyer for the failure to discover illegal immigrant applicants.
Brown also presented several strongly worded e-mails to other plant managers, in addition to the one she sent Rubashkin.
The human resources manager, when pressed, agreed with Brown's assessment that she had "a little bit of a temper," was "a little exciteable," and was "prone to drama."