Kosher king Sholom Rubashkin asking influential politicians to help lower 27-year jail sentence
BY Alison Gendar • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
WASHINGTON - A well-connected kosher slaughterhouse king convicted of fraud at his Iowa plant has rustled up a herd of New York pols to try to win him a reduced sentence.
The prominent Lubavitcher from Brooklyn, Sholom Rubashkin, was sentenced last summer to 27 years in prison for 86 counts of financial crimes as well as lying on the witness stand.
Yet the disgraced businessman has friends in high places, including Reps. Anthony Weiner, Jerrold Nadler, Eliot Engel, Carolyn McCarthy, Edolphus Towns, Carolyn Maloney, Steve Israel and Yvette Clarke, who have lobbied for a review of his case.
Rubashkin has also enlisted more than 30 other lawmakers from New Jersey to California to voice outrage, along with several former U.S. attorneys general.
The head of the Democratic National Committee, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, used part of her time at a recent hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder to remind him to review Rubashkin's sentence.
Clarke said Orthodox Jewish constituents in her Brooklyn district raised concerns "the punishment did not fit the crime here."
The possible injustice, coupled with fears Rubashkin's imprisonment would hike the costs of kosher food, prompted Clarke to ask Holder's office to review the case.
"It seemed the sentence was sort of extreme when you look at similar types of cases," she told the Daily News.
Nadler said Iowa prosecutors argued against bail for Rubashkin "because he was a Jew and eligible to immigrate to Israel....Under that standard, no Jew would ever be eligible for bail."
Rubashkin is a member of a large and influential Hasidic family that ran the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse, Agriprocessor, sending turkey, chicken and beef across the country.
"This case is troubling on many levels to me and many of my colleagues," Weiner said. "From the propriety of the judge, to the possible concealment of information from Rubashkin and his attorneys to the overly harsh sentence. It deserves a second look."
The Brooklyn businessman was at the pinnacle of the lucrative kosher food world, and through business and marriage is connected to huge swaths of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community, a reliable and sometimes pivotal voting bloc.
"He is an influential man in the community, and people believed he was being persecuted," said Shmarya Rosenberg, whose blog, FailedMessiah, has blasted Rubashkin.
Supporters say mob hit men and pedophiles don't even get 27 years, let alone a businessman convicted of a nonviolent crime.
"People familiar with the case and its history have felt this was really a case of outrageous treatment of a defendant," said Rubashkin's lawyer Nathan Lewin.
Rubashkin was arrested in October 2008, five months after the Department of Justice and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers raided his Iowa plant and arrested nearly 400 illegal immigrants.
An Iowa state jury cleared him of criminal charges he knowingly used underage immigrants. Jurors said Rubashkin couldn't be held responsible if teens, some as young as 15, lied and got jobs with fake IDs.
Then an Iowa federal jury found him guilty of a $26 million financial scheme of inflating accounts and laundering money.
His supporters argue not only was the federal sentence excessive, but that Linda Reade, the judge who issued it, never should have heard the case.
She had met numerous times with DOJ and ICE officials before the raid, but did not disclose the extent of the conversations until Rubashkin's appeal team filed a Freedom of Information request.
Rubashkin, 51, is being held in a medium-security prison in Otisville, N.Y. His appeal is to be heard next month.
Anyone interested in the facts of the Rubashkin case can read hundreds of my previous posts on it.
But I will make a few brief points here:
1. The meetings Judge Reade had before the raid dealt with a raid on an unnamed employer. She was not told the name of the employer, the company name, the type of business, the location, or any other details. All she was told is that there could be as many as 1000 undocumented workers arrested.
2. Judge Reade was told this by the prosecution because as the chief judge of the court, a very small court, she had to make sure that judges were available to arraign the arrested, that there were defense lawyers, interpreters, computer access, etc., all in a remote location. There is nothing in the judicial code of conduct that prohibits this type of communication.
3. The idea that Rubashkin and his defense team did not know about the extent of these meetings until long after his trial was over is a lie crafted by Nathan Lewin. It has absolutely no factual support.
4. I recently spoke with a personal friend of a congressperson who wrote a letter for Rubashkin. The friend told me he asked the congressperson about the Rubashkin case and the congressperson did not know the facts of the case. Why was the letter written? In short, the congressperson wanted Jewish support in the next election and thought writing a letter would help. The value of these letters does not come from the congresspersons' knowledge of the case or from any real concern for Sholom Rubashkin – it comes from politicians fulfilling a request from what is perceived as a powerful voting bloc. I'm willing to bet the little money I have left that 80% of these letters would never have been written if these 'champions of justice' had spent 10 minutes talking to federal prosecutors, or an hour reading the trial summations and the sentencing memos.
5. The Rubashkin-Balkany family history of delivering money to politicians who do their bidding is no secret. Combine that with what politicians perceive as support for Rubashkin from a community that votes in a bloc and you have a pretty good indication of why so many of these letters were written. Note that none of the letters talk about Rubashkin obstructing justice or the slew of other crimes he committed, including perjury, that surround his bank fraud, and they do not mention the irrefutable facts that Rubashkin illegally employed hundreds of undocumented workers and knew he was doing it. The letters do not mention Rubashkin's double payrolls, his stealing of wages and overtime from these poor immigrant workers, and so many more crimes and injustices. Let those crimes and injustices become known in these congresspeoples' home districts and you'll see these politicians walk away from Rubashkin in a heartbeat.
[Hat Tip: Burich.]