Jens Krogstad • Des Moines Register blog post, 5-25-103:45 p.m., Waterloo, Ia. — Court is adjourned until tomorrow morning, when the defense is schedule to present its case to the jury.
Sholom Rubashkin’s defense team argued this afternoon that the judge should throw out all 83 misdemeanor child labor charges because the state did not prove the former plant executive wanted to hire or actually hired any minors.
“The case is underwhelming and ill-conceived and should be put to a stop right now,” said defense attorney Mark Weinhardt. “The evidence in this case is that Mr. Rubashkin did absolutely nothing.”
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Elisabeth Reynoldson argued the state simply has to prove Rubashkin willfully concealed or permitted minors to work at the plant.
She cited three supervisors who testified it was easy to spot minors on the plant floor, and that Rubashkin regularly walked the area and could have made similar observations.
Black Hawk County District Associate Judge Nathan Callahan said he will review the evidence and rule at a later date.
The defense is scheduled to begin presenting its case Wednesday morning.
Weinhardt argued the state did not prove the ages of the minors by bringing in parents or a verifiable birth certificate.
He said the state also failed to prove the alleged minors worked around dangerous chemicals because dry ice and bleach don’t qualify as dangerous chemicals. Workers were not exposed to a third chemical, anhydrous ammonia, because it ran in enclosed pipes, he said.
The state argued one supervisor, Matthew Derrick, said he told Rubashkin of minors at the plant, though the conversation took place before the alleged child labor violations took place.
The state said a department of labor expert witness testified bleach and dry ice qualify as dangerous or poisonous chemicals.
The defense argued the judge should at least throw the charges related to five alleged child laborers because they did not testify in the case. The state alleges 31 minors worked at the plant.
Judge Callahan noted the defense presented a compelling argument when it said the state was charging Rubashkin on 83 specific counts, but attempting to convict him on a allowing a general scheme to employ minors. The defense argued the state needed to prove each individual count.
Callahan said its an issue that could be compelling on any future appeals, if Rubashkin is convicted. Defense attorneys often request the judge to throw out a case in a directed verdict of acquittal, as Rubashkin’s team did today, if it plans future appeals.
“I think that’s an interesting question,” he said.
The Courier's report:
Attorneys request Rubashkin's charges be dropped
JEFF REINITZ • Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
WATERLOO - Attorneys for a former Agriprocessors executive have asked the court to throw out child labor charges.
After the prosecution rested Tuesday morning, defense attorneys argued the state didn't present any evidence linking Sholom Rubashkin to the employment of 31 minors at the Postville slaughterhouse.
Rubashkin is on trial for 83 counts of various child labor violations. He also is awaiting sentencing on a federal fraud conviction in connection with loans the plant received.
Judge Nathan Callahan didn't rule on the defense's motion for a directed verdict Tuesday
but indicated there was a good argument to dismiss charges pertaining to five alleged underage workers who didn't testify.
Those workers account for 16 of the 83 counts, and prosecutors seemed to concede five counts that relate to one of the nontestifying witnesses.
"This case is underwhelming and ill-conceived," defense attorney Mark Weinhardt said. He said there was no testimony on the "fighting issue," which was Rubashkin's role, if any, in employing underage workers.
Weinhardt said the state didn't have any evidence that Rubashkin took any actions to employ or continue the employment of any of the minors.
Assistant Attorney General Elisabeth Reynolds argued that the charges should stand. She said language in the law deals with willfully concealing or permitting the employment of minors.
While not ruling, Callahan noted that evidence was presented that there were underage workers, that one supervisor claimed he told Rubashkin about the underage workers, that witnesses said it was obvious there were minors working by standing on the floor and that Rubashkin had been on the floor.
In making his decision, Callahan isn't considering the weight or credibility of the evidence.
Jurors were told to return to court Wednesday morning.