Blog post by Jens Krogstad • Des Moines Register
4:30 p.m., Waterloo, Ia. — Court is adjourned for today. The prosecution said it would call its final witnesses tomorrow morning. Defense will begin making its case Wednesday morning.
The final witness for the day was Brian Griffith:
When child labor inspectors toured Agriprocessors one day, a former plant supervisor said he grabbed the two workers in his department he suspected to be underage and hid them in the basement.
Former plant supervisor Brian Griffith testified Monday that he did so under orders from his supervisor, a forceful, intimidating man named Jeff Heasley.
Less than a month before a May 12, 2008 immigration raid on the plant, Griffith signed a document that said there didn’t appear to be any workers under 18. He listed the name of one minor he said appeared to be young under his signature.
The employee he sent into the basement and listed on the document was Mario Roberto Perez Marroquin, the previous witness. Perez Marroquin wore a green hat as the lead worker under Griffith, and Griffith described him as one of his best workers.
When Griffith started his job in 2001, he said he talked to his supervisor about underage workers but never brought it up again after he was told “this is the way things are, and this is the way it will stay.”
Griffith said it was apparent minors worked at the plant by their behavior.
He said he could tell the minors, “just by their childish acts and running around and coming back late from breaks and playing around.”
2:52 p.m., Waterloo, Ia. — For two years, Mario Roberto Perez Marroquin held a summer job just a few blocks from his high school in Postville.
He hauled heavy barrels of beef and other beef parts that smeared his frock with blood, and filled his nose with the stench of slaughtered beef. Several of his classmates also held jobs at the plant in 2006 and 2007, he said.
During the school year, Perez Marroquin played soccer for the Postville Pirates, once showing off his ball handling skills at a school assembly for a yearbook photo called “Soccer Fun.”
Perez Marroquin said his most serious accident occurred when he caught an over-sized frock on a machine that sealed beef containers, and narrowly avoided severing his hand.
“It started dragging me, but I pulled really hard and freed myself,” he said.
He later took a job at the kosher slaughterhouse full-time because it offered better pay than his previous jobs. After the raid, he returned to school and recently graduated from Postville High School.
From the notebook: Rubashkin is showing no outward signs of his hospitalization last week with an arm infection. His friends and family have made a strong showing today. About a half-dozen teenage boys made the trip from Postville’s yeshiva, a Jewish boys school. They said they’ll be finishing up school in a couple of weeks, and will have two months off. No big plans for the summer, though, they said.
Also: No court on Friday because of budget cuts — furlough day.
2:11 p.m., Waterloo, Ia. — On cross-examination, Gomez Marroquin said federal immigration agents did not believe that he was a minor until he showed identification.
“In order to persuade them you were a minor, you had to show Guatemalan documents,” said defense attorney Mark Weinhardt.
“They wouldn’t just take your word for it, would they?”
After repeated questioning, Gomez Marroquin acknowledged that he told government investigators after the raid that he wasn’t aware of other minors of the plant. He said he lied because he didn’t want to get anyone else in trouble.
Gomez Marroquin also said that he knew the ages of minors at the plant because it’s easier for him to tell the ages of people from his country and culture.
The defense attempted to paint him – as they have many of the other witnesses – as so desperate to remain in the United States that they would say anything to avoid deportation.
Sholom Rubashkin, a former plant executive, is on trial for allowing minors to work excessive hours in the plant, and around dangerous machinery and chemicals.
Gomez Marroquin was deported within eight days of the raid. He returned to his home country, where he planted corn and beans, and tilled the land.
He said he last attended school when he was 13.