Rubashkin trial: Worker details chicken slaughter
BLOG POST BY JENS KROGSTAD • Des Moines Register
The last witness of the day, Elmer Hernandez Lopez, was 16 when he started working at Agriprocessors shortly after arriving from Guatemala. His cross-examination will continue in the morning.
He said he eventually worked more than 12 hours a day slaughtering chickens.
Lopez walked to the middle of the courtroom and showed the jury how he slaughtered up to 90 chickens per minute.
He said hung the live chickens on a hook by grabbing the chicken’s feet with his right hand, and holding the wings with the left.
A Jewish rabbi would then walk by, grab the chicken’s neck with his left hand, and slice its throat.
Lopez said he used electric scissors in his job, and cleaned his equipment with bleach.
“It affected your head. Every time I smelled the odor, I got a strong headache and my nose hurt,” he said.
He said he saw Sholom Rubashkin sometimes walk by his department, urging them to work faster. Rubashkin told supervisors every single hook should have a chicken, he said.
Judge Callahan said he will excuse the jury on Wednesday and Thursday next week to accomodate the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Click here for more details on the holiday.
Callahan said he excused a juror because of a conflict, leaving the jury with just one alternate. He didn’t offer any more details.
3:08 p.m., Waterloo, Ia. — Althouse ended up just confirming some payroll information of underage workers, and explaining how to read the time sheets. This took about 30-40 minutes.
Interesting side note: Agriprocessors used what sounded like a biometric hand scanner to track employees’ work hours.
“You inserted your hand into a scanning device, almost like on Star Trek or something,” said defense attorney Mark Weinhardt.
Other stuff in my notebook: Sholom Rubashkin talked to some of the youngest of his 10 children before trial started and during some morning breaks. He smiled as he asked them about their evening last night, and about what they did. I believe I heard his autistic son, Moshe, is here today. A lot of his family has arrived this afternoon. They’re taking up two rows of benches in the back.
2:10 p.m., Waterloo, Ia. — Back from lunch ready from cross-examination of witness.
Rosita Trejo Pinales, said she worked for up to 10 hours at the plant after school. She went to bed around 1 a.m. every weekday, then attended school in the morning, she said.
“I needed the work. We needed money to survive,” she said.
The defense presented documents that showed Pinales gave five different ages to various government agencies following the raid.
“Do you have any explanation for how all those other dates got on those documents?” said defense attorney Mark Weinhardt.
“I don’t know,” she said.
Weinhardt then asked how she knew other children worked at the plant. She said she only knew because she attended school with them.
“You can’t tell how old they are just by looking at them?” he said.
“No,” she said.
Next witness is Laura Althouse, a former human resources employee. Federal prosecutors charged her with conspiracy to hire illegal immigrants and aggravated identity theft. The identity theft charge was later dismissed.
Althouse was sentenced to two years of probation in December.
She is also a witness for the defense.
Attorneys are arguing whether or not evidence should be introduced that shows Rubashkin told her to hire immigrants with certain green cards, and whether or not to allow her federal conviction into evidence.
The prosecution agreed not to introduce her conviction.
Black Hawk County District Associate Judge Nathan Callahan said he’s concerned about introducing the false documents into evidence because it involves people that weren’t minors.
He said because green cards in evidence for this case were completely forged, he’s going to exclude that evidence. He also said he won’t allow evidence from Althouse about processes of hiring.
This evidence was raised in Rubashkin’s federal financial fraud trial.