Prosecutors: Rubashkin judge didn’t know Agriprocessors was their target
Blog post by Grant Schulte • Des Moines Register
The judge who presided over Sholom Rubashkin’s fraud trial did nothing improper when she met with federal agents prior to the massive 2008 immigration raid at Agriprocessors, Inc., prosecutors argued Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Linda Reade was only told about a planned raid that would involve hundreds of illegal immigrant arrests, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr. wrote in court papers.
The chief federal judge for Iowa’s northern district was not privy to where the raid would take place, who would be targeted, or other details before the raid was underway, Deegan said.
The federal court filing came in response to defense claims that Reade did not disclose all of her conversations before the May 2008 raid. Rubashkin’s lawyers have asked for a new trial on grounds Reade took an improper role in helping plan the raid.
Reade has said she had limited “logistical cooperation” with law enforcement in advance, to ensure that the detained immigrants were given attorneys and interpreters. The massive raid also required her to move the immigrant hearings to the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo because of the number of arrests.
“In order to plan for hundreds of criminal prosecutions, the Court needed to be contacted at the earliest opportunity to determine whether the Court could handle so many prosecutions at once and, if so, when,” Deegan Jr. wrote. “The Court needed several months to plan for its role in the operation. There is nothing about the timing of the notification to suggest anything nefarious.”
Defense lawyers say Reade participated in a series of meetings with immigration agents and prosecutors that went beyond that limited role.
Reade has said she does not comment on pending cases.
Deegan said statements attributed to Reade about her “support” for the operation were taken out of context. Even if she had known that Agriprocessors was the target, he said, the allegations still would not lead a reasonable person to question her impartiality. He noted that the prosecutions immediately after the raid focused on the plant workers and not the management.
Rubashkin was sentenced to 27 years in prison in June for his leadership in the massive financial fraud scheme at Agriprocessors Inc. A jury convicted Rubashkin of 86 fraud-related charges in November.
Nearly 400 illegal immigrants were arrested at the Postville plant during the raid. The plant later filed for bankruptcy, and has since emerged under new ownership as Agri Star.
First of all, there is no question that Nathan Lewin's team took quotes out of context. They also attributed quotes to Judge Reade that were, in fact, not quotes, and in one especially egregious case took a part of of a sentence and used it as a quote without indicating the sentence was truncated. The part Lewin omitted modified the part he used, and made the sentence completely banal.
While I was the first to report this, others – including Avi Moskowitz, a former Deputy Assistant US Attorney who is now a defense attorney – pointed this out, as well.
But if a reporter doesn't check the quotes, all he can do is report it as a he said, she said situation. And that is what the Des Moines Register does.
Past that, the government's brief filed today points out other defense tactics that it says are less than fully above board, including the title of and content of the defense's press release, made public only minutes after Lewin's motion for a new trial was filed. The claims made in the Lewin press release are not supported by the court documents Lewin filed, as I have noted several times previously.
The government says Judge Reade was not told which company was the target of the raid, but even if she had been, that would not disqualify her from judging the case (as I also noted previously):
Chief Judge Reade was not privy to the location of the place to be searched on May 12, 2008, or who the potential targets of the investigation might be. (Murphy Affidavit ¶ 13 (Gov. Exb. 3)). Accordingly, her involvement in the pre-search logistical coordination of Court operations could not have exposed her to any facts about defendant, his family’s business, or the evidence gathered prior to the search. However, even if Chief Judge Reade had been apprised of the evidence gathered prior to the search, recusal would not be warranted. Judges are routinely privy to such information in the form of, for example, Rule 41 search warrant applications, Title III wiretap applications, criminal complaints, and pen register applications.
It also says that the executive who the government sought to arrest on May 12, 2008 was not Sholom Rubashkin. While the government does not name this executive, he apparently is Hosam Amara, who fled to Israel with Sholom Rubashkin's help to avoid arrest:
The arrest warrant referred to in the April 2, 2008, e-mail was for another person and was returned un-executed. (See Murphy Affidavit ¶ 15 (Gov. Exb. 3)). It was signed by a judicial officer other than Chief Judge Reade, (see Murphy Affidavit ¶ 15 (Gov. Exb. 3)), and there is no evidence to suggest Chief Judge Reade was ever made aware of it.
And the government notes:
[Sholom Rubashkin] was not charged with any criminal charges until October 30, 2008; after other Agriprocessors mangers and office personnel had been prosecuted and cooperated. Defendant’s first financial charges were not brought until November 14, 2008. Even then, additional criminal conduct (such as the fake invoice scheme) was not discovered until several weeks later. Indeed, the evidence at trial showed defendant was still committing an array of crimes long after the May 12, 2008, search.…The evidence gathered on May 12, 2008, was only a discrete part of the mountains of evidence used to convict defendant.
The bottom line is that all parties agree it was proper for Judge Reade to be involved in logistical planning for the aftermath of the raid. The defense alleges the judge's involvement went beyond that. The government claims it did not, and points out that Lewin has brought no evidence to the contrary. And this is what I have noted several times, beginning the day Lewin's motion was filed.
The government also notes that Rubashkin's defense team chose not to ask for Judge Reade's recusal before the trial, and alleges Lewin's "new evidence" is not, in fact, new or evidence. This is explained in depth in the brief.
You can read the full brief and related material on my morning post.
All this said, we won't know what will happen until the judge rules, and that should take several days or even more.