Blog post by Jens Krogstad • Des Moines Register
11:55 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — Jury is out for lunch break.
Out of the presence of the jury, Rabbi Bass said an employee showed him Matthew Derrick, the former Agriprocessors supervisor, kissing an employee named Jennifer Toj. A previous witness, Nilda Nuritza Rucal, said she worked under that name.
The judge said he won’t allow the testimony to be presented to the jury.
In earlier testimony, an agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation testified Derrick never told him of a conversation he told the jury he had with Rubashkin. He claimed he told Rubashkin children were working at the plant.
DCI Agent John Turbett said Rubashkin was a suspect in the case when he interviewed Turbett in September 2008, but Derrick never mentioned the conversation.
11:10 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — A rabbi who supervised kosher production at Agriprocessors disputed claims by a former manager who said children worked at the plant.
Rabbi Zvi Bass said former plant supervisor Matthew Derrick never talked to him about children at the kosher slaughterhouse or about working conditions there.
Bass also said he didn’t see any workers he thought were underage in Derrick’s department. Derrick had testified at least half of his employees were underage.
Other plant managers offered similar testimony for the defense yesterday. Derrick’s testimony is the only evidence that directly links Rubashkin to knowing about child laborers before an investigation by state and federal officials, the defense said earlier today.
Bass said he heard Derrick, who testified he cared deeply for his workers, disparage his Guatemalan workers.
Derrick once said they needed to pack “these Mexicanos like sardine and send them back to Mexico,” Bass said.
When Bass pointed out they were Guatemalans, Derrick waved his hand dismissively, he said.
Bass said he knew Henry Lopez Calel, who had previously testified he hauled heavy turkey barrels hundreds of feet while working at the plant as a minor.
Bass said he never observed Lopez Calel hauling any barrels, and no workers ever hauled barrels more than a few dozen feet.
10:25 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — Suria Hubbner of New York said she failed to convince Sholom Rubashkin and other company officials on several occasions to hire her sons when they were 17.
When she persisted, one of her sons said everyone knows Rubashkin doesn’t hire minors, she said.
State did not cross-examine her.
10:15 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — A former Agriprocessors security director said he never saw anyone walk into the plant he thought was under the age of 18.
Cletus Pladsen of Waukon said everyone had to walk by him to enter the plant for eight years.
On cross-examination, the prosecutor showed him a picture of a young-looking former worker who testified.
“Does that look like an adult to you?” said Deputy Iowa Attorney General Thomas H. Miller.
“No,” Pladsen said.
10:05 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — The judge said the defense can’t present evidence to the jury from a witness who said she overheard someone coaching former Agriprocessors workers on how to receive U-visas in August 2008.
Ana McCarthy said she visited Postville multiple times that month in an attempt to find what really happened at the kosher slaughterhouse. She said she’s a Panama native and a Spanish Jew.
While waiting to meet with two members of St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, she said she overheard a representative from Chicago-based Jewish Council on Urban Affairs speaking to the workers.
“He was coaching them. He was telling them about their right, and what they could do to get a visa,” she said.
Black Hawk County District Associate Judge Nathan Callahan said he didn’t see a specific connection of the incident with any of the witnesses in the trial.
He said the defense had an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses about their U-visa status and how that might impact their testimony.
“It’s tangential to the issues that we’re dealing with. It’s another opportunity for this mini-trial on the side,” he said.
9:30 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — The first witness of the day is Ana McCarthy, an Illinois resident. She’s a Panama native and certified Spanish-language interpreter. She says she is a Spanish Jew. Not clear yet why she is on the stand.
Before the jury was seated, a judge denied a request from Sholom Rubashkin’s defense team to tell the jury that a former Agriprocessors supervisor never revealed to the state that he spoke with Rubashkin about child laborers at the plant.
The defense asked the state to turn over any evidence of the conversation Matthew Derrick said he had with Rubashkin. The state said it had nothing to disclose.
It is the only evidence that links Rubashkin to knowing about underage workers at the plant before investigations by state and federal labor officials.
“If he never revealed it (to the state), it would certainly undermine the credibility of the statement,” said defense attorney Mark Weinhardt.
Black Hawk County District Associate Judge Nathan Callahan said he had the impression that Derrick’s disclosure of his conversation with Rubashkin came as a surprise to the state.
Callahan noted he didn’t allow the attorneys to delve into alleged death threats against him and alleged sexual harassment he committed.
“I don’t find his statement in regards to his conversation with Sholom Rubashkin all that credible. It’s a tough thing for the defense to deal with,” he said.