Rubashkin trial: Rubashkin’s wife takes stand
Blog post by Jens Krogstad • Des Moines Register11:00 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — Sholom Rubashkin’s wife, Leah, took the stand and spoke largely about their family and religious beliefs.
At one point, Sholom’s brother, Heshy, walked into the courtroom and she identified him. She was asked if people ever confused the brothers. She said it happened quite frequently.
Leah smiled and spoke confidently, occasionally cracking jokes. Sholom leaned back in his chair and stared at the table, and sometimes smiled at what his wife said.
She talked about their Jewish traditions, including why he wears a yarmulke (to remind him that God is always above) and never shaves his beard (scripture mandates it).
She spoke of frequent trips, including one to Israel and Ukraine in 2007, in which they reassessed their life paths and service to their God.
The Rubashkins lived in New York after getting married 28 years ago, and moved to Postville about 16 years ago. They lived in St. Paul for about 3 years while Sholom worked at Agriprocessors during the week.
They have 10 children, ranging in ages from 6 to 28. That includes their son Moishe, 16, who is autistic.
For about two years prior to the May 12, 2008 raid, he came home from work early to assist in Moishe’s development.
“We have 10 universes, actually. But he’s a pretty big one in the orbit,” she said. “After the raid, everything was shattered.”
10:35 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — Leah Rubashkin is taking the stand. She is Sholom’s wife.
10:05 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — Wayne Hecker, a former Agriprocessors manager, said sometime in 2007 he escorted the child of another plant employee after the human resources manager discovered the person was a minor.
Other than that incident, he said he never saw any minors at the plant. He said his workers always wore the required safety equipmpent. Hecker now works at Agristar, the company that bought out Agriprocessors last year.
The next witness was Rodney William Heston, an industrial refrigeration contractor who has worked with Agriprocessors (and now Agristar) for 16 years.
He said the workers he saw always wore the required safety equipment.
The plant itself was comparable to other meat plants he has visited in its workforce – largely short Latinos – and in its equipment, he said.
In the last five years he worked at Agriprocessors, he said it became more difficult to talk with Rubashkin because he was so busy in his office.
“Sometimes I had to wait an hour or two to talk to him,” he said.
He said the anhydrous ammonia used as a coolant in his refrigeration systems never leaked around workers. Some small leaks on the roof occasionally happened, he said.
On cross-examination, prosecutors said the plant was cited in 2008 for not posting evacuation routes.
Anhydrous ammonia can cause a slow death by strangulation, and meatpacking workers in Iowa have died from exposure to the chemical, said Deputy Iowa Attorney General Thomas H. Miller.
9:05 a.m., Waterloo, Ia. — The defense said it plans to rest its case in Sholom Rubashkin’s trial on 83 misdemeanor child-labor charges tomorrow.
The first witness will be Wayne Hecker, a manager at Agriprocessors. For years he has worked around the country for beef processing plants. “I’m a beef man,” he says.