President Trump’s commutation last week of Sholom Rubashkin’s 27-year sentence to the approximately eight years he had already served continues to be celebrated across the Jewish community.
As a White House statement said in explaining the presidential action:
Mr. Rubashkin is a 57-year-old father of 10 children. He previously ran the Iowa headquarters of a family business that was the largest kosher meat-processing company. In 2009, he was convicted of bank fraud and sentenced thereafter to 27 years in prison. Mr. Rubashkin has now served more than 8 years of that sentence, which many have called excessive in light of its disparity with sentences imposed for similar crimes….
The President’s review of Mr. Rubashkin’s case and commutation decision were based on expressions of support from Members of Congress and a broad cross-section of the legal community. A bipartisan group of more than 100 former high-ranking and distinguished Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, prosecutors, judges, and legal scholars have expressed concerns about the evidentiary proceedings in Mr. Rubashkin’s case and the severity of his sentence. Additionally, more than 30 current Members of Congress have written letters expressing support for review of Mr. Rubashkin’s case.
In truth, the White House statement barely summarizes the palpable wrongs perpetrated against Mr. Rubashkin – from prosecutors who piled on excessive charges and never cut him even a modicum of the slack typically accorded an accused in similar circumstances; to a trial judge who played an astonishing role in the development of the prosecution; to appellate judges who gave unconscionably wide latitude to the zones of discretion claimed by prosecutors and the trial court.
Time and space do not permit a review of all of the outrageous decisions that were made in the course of the case against Mr. Rubashkin – like denying him bail because as a Jew with an automatic “right of return” to Israel he was labeled a flight risk.
We will leave all of that for a later time; we cannot, however, end without noting our dismay that missing from the list of federal elected officials who signed on to the letter supporting a presidential review of the Rubashkin conviction was the Senate Democratic minority leader, New York’s own senior senator, Chuck Schumer. How could he not have joined in the effort? Has he not regularly invoked, in a play on his surname, the title “shomer Yisrael” (guardian of Israel) by virtue of his senior position?
House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is not Jewish, signed on. Are we to credit the lame explanation offered by political consultant Ezra Friedlander that Mr. Schumer was part of the mix because he must have prodded Ms. Pelosi to join?
There are a number of loose ends to tie up. For now, let’s all join with those celebrating Mr. Rubashkin’s release and thank the president for doing the right thing on this matter, as he’s done with the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.