The state has rested its case, and the jury is excused until tomorrow morning. The attorneys will be back at 1:30 p.m., most likely to ask for a directed verdict – i.e., the defense will ask for all charges to be dismissed.
State rests case against Sholom Rubashkin
By JEFF REINITZ • Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
WATERLOO --- The state rested its case against former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin shortly before noon this morning.
The jury was sent home until Wednesday morning when the defense will begin with its witnesses. The prosecutors and defense will return this afternoon when the defense likely will ask the jury for a directed verdict of acquittal.
The last prosecution witness, Elmer Lopez Marroquinn, told jurors he told labor investigators he was under age 18 before the May 2008 immigration raid.
Lopez Marroquinn, a Guatemalan resident who started working for Agriprocessors at the age of 16, said a plant human resources employee told him not to reveal his true age before he met with the inspectors.
But Lopez Marroquinn said he told labor inspectors his real name and age during the private interview. He also told investigators there were other minors at the Postville meatpacking plant.
After answering questions, he went back to work and continued his employment at the plant until the immigration agents raided the facility a month later.
Another witness, Luis Nava Gonzales, who was 17 when he started working at Agriprocessors in March 2008, recounted the same meeting with labor inspectors.
But Nava, who spoke without the assistance of an interpreter, said he told inspectors he was old enough to work at the plant.
Under cross-examination, the defense showed him a statement he signed at the conclusion of the labor interview.
The April 2008 document showed that Nava said he was 19 with a date of birth of 1987. That would have made him 21, and Nava picked up on the inaccuracy while he examined it from the stand.
"I probably was confused about how old I was supposed to be," he said. "They probably thought I was kind of dumb."
Some of the more confrontational parts of the trial so far came during a heated exchange when defense attorney Montgomery Brown asked Nava about his duties wielding a chain saw on the beef kill floor.
When Brown pressed Nava, asking him if work on the floor stopped when the rabbis went home, Nava appeared to read something more into the question.
Nava said the rabbis were lazy but were good people and ranted briefly, at one point asking Brown "What do you think you are?"
Brown let him continue and asked if there was anything else he wanted to say about his client.
Judge Nathan Callahan put an end to the argument, and Nava calmed down and even gave a friendly fist bump to one of Rubashkin's relatives as he left the courtroom.
The Des Moines Register's blog post:
Blog post by Jens Krogstad • Des Moines Register
12:08 p.m., Waterloo, Ia. — The state has rested its case, and the jury is excused until tomorrow morning. The attorneys will be back at 1:30 p.m., most likely to ask for a directed verdict.
Elmer Isaias Lopez Marroquin was told by an Agriprocessors human resources employee to lie about his age when state labor investigators visited the plant two years ago.
He told them he was 17 anyway, he testified on Tuesday.
“(The employee) told us not to tell them I was 17 because the plant would have problems,” Lopez Marroquin said.
Lopez Marroquin was the last of the state’s witnesses in Sholom Rubashkin’s child labor case. The prosecution’s seven days of testimony was spread out over three weeks due to interruptions from Rubashkin’s hospitalization last week with an arm infection and a Jewish holiday.
State labor investigators visited the kosher slaughterhouse in Postville in April 2008 and interviewed several workers who appeared underage.
Lopez Marroquin showed the jury about a dozen light-colored scars on his forearms from carving tongues from cattle.
The first witness of the day, Luis Nava Gonzalez, said the same human resources employee, Karina Freund, told him to also lie about his age to state investigators.
“I talked to her and asked what I should say. I told her I was going to tell them I was 21,” he said.
A former supervisor yesterday testified he hid at least one minor from investigators when the state labor investigators visited.
Defense attorney F. Montgomery Brown emphasized that state labor investigators allowed Lopez Marroquin to return to work even after he told them he was a minor.
“You told Karina you were 17. You told investigators you were 17. They let you go back to work,” Brown said.
Defense attorneys argued in court papers filed before trial that state investigators created a “legal Catch-22” for Agriprocessors by not sharing the names of underage workers with plant managers.
Plant managers could not have known which workers were underage, Brown argued in the papers. At the same time, he said, the managers had no legal right “to guess at ages or fire employees en masse on mere suspicion.”
11:00 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — On Luis Nava Gonzalez’s second application to Agriprocessors, he presented a second set of fake papers to the same human resources employee and gained employment.
Gonzalez said on his first attempt he used obviously fake identification, and returned a week later with more expensive fake documents.
The same woman who had rejected his application hired him, he said.
“Still, but they’re going to know the ID is fake, because I went there a week earlier,” he said.
Once hired, he had to watch a safety video and take a quiz. He passed it, but didn’t think it was a requirement for work because many workers didn’t speak English.
“I don’t think you even had to pass the test to work there. There was nothing but little Mexicans, little Guatemalans at the plant,” he said.
He spent his days using a chainsaw to split cattle carcasses in half.
“Real hard work, man. You don’t believe how hard it was,” he said. “Some people they’ve put there don’t make it the whole day.”
Gonzalez acknowledged he was nervous, and frequently broke off on tangents that left attorneys and the jury laughing.
When he was shown a document in which he did not match his age with his fake birthday, he said the state investigators must have thought he was stupid because he couldn’t add.
“I probably got confused about how old I was supposed to be,” he said.
He also lashed out a defense attorney who pressed him on certain facts.
“I’m not disrespecting you, sir. But you’re making stuff up and disrespecting me,” he said. “What do you think you are?”
“Is there anything else you’d like to say about what you know or don’t know about me, my colleagues and my client?” said defense attorney F. Montgomery Brown.
Black Hawk County District Associate Judge Nathan Callahan then broke in and assured Gonzalez nobody was trying to disrespect him, and to answer the questions.
“If you get upset, just tell me and we can take a break,” he said.
9:07 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — The final witnesses for the state will testify this morning. First up is Luis Nava Gonzalez, a former Agriprocessors worker. He’s the first former worker to testify that speaks English. He moved to Texas when he was 3 years old.