Rubashkin should not be in jail, for now
Mayer Fertig • The Jewish Star
Sholom Rubashkin is probably going to spend a significant amount of time behind bars. In November, he was convicted in federal court on a number of counts of fraud related to his AgriProcessors meat packing plant in Iowa.
Whether or not the decision to prosecute Rubashkin in the first place was fair and just seems to have become a matter upon which reasonable people, and a few unreasonable people, must disagree. A significant public relations and fund raising effort is underway dedicated to the proposition that Rubashkin was railroaded. We come down firmly on the side of the people who understand that people who break the law can be punished. All the tzedaka in the world can’t necessarily change that — and there’s no disputing that Sholom Rubashkin gave a lot of tzedakah. But that doesn’t mean he’s being treated fairly, and we do not believe that he is.
Rubashkin has not been sentenced yet, but is in prison anyway. Federal prosecutors deem him a flight risk. Twice he has applied for bail, and twice been turned down.
It is not unusual for a convicted CEO to be denied bail pending sentencing. CEOs — even, or especially, crooked ones — tend to have significant resources, making them likely candidates to make a run for it. But not all convicted CEOs have been locked up prior to sentencing. For instance, Joseph Hirko, the former chief executive of Enron’s failed Internet business remained free before he was sentenced to 16 months in prison last September.
But it’s not that Rubashkin didn’t receive the same consideration that we find most disturbing. It’s the reason: prosecutors have said that Rubashkin is likely to flee to Israel. The next step in that calculation seems obvious: any observant Jew with ties to Israel would be deemed a flight risk and denied bail. That is a frightening implication that must be protested very strongly.
This week some prominent rabbis went to Washington to urge Attorney General Eric Holder to review Rubashkin’s case and see for himself why they believe Rubashkin will not flee.
Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel of Agudath Israel of America, Rabbi Pesach Lerner of National Council of Young Israel, Rabbi Aaron Raskin of the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education, Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbi Aaron Lipskar of Aleph Institute and Rabbi Aryeh Sokoloff of the Rabbinical Association of Queens, Greater New York, held a news conference and released a letter to Holder, which read in part, “The prosecutors’ ongoing insistence that Mr. Rubashkin remain incarcerated through the long months he awaits sentencing is unjustifiable, even inhumane.”
Rubashkin and his wife have 10 children, six live at home, including “an autistic 16-year-old who has always been heavily dependent on his father. Mr. Rubashkin’s absence from his home at this time — when he is most needed to prepare his children in case he is sentenced to a lengthy prison term — is devastating,” the letter said.
Friends have offered the equity in 43 homes as collateral, and offered to pay for a 24-hour armed guard. In addition, “to demonstrate the intensity of their conviction that he will not flee, rabbis have offered Torah scrolls — that may not be assigned except for the most extreme and exigent needs — as security for his presence.”
The letter bluntly states: “Employing illegal aliens and committing bank fraud by compromising the security for a bank loan do not warrant the extreme draconian sanction of pre-sentencing imprisonment.”
We wholeheartedly agree. Mr. Rubashkin will have to pay the price for his crimes, but to deny him his final months before sentencing with his family is wrong. We would like to see Mr. Holder order his prosecutors to back off.