web analytics
August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Rubashkin Sentence Sullies U.S. Justice System


The unusually severe sentence of 27 years in prison for Sholom Rubashkin is a victory for a prosecution that from the outset pursued a win-at-all-costs strategy. But the success comes at a price, and not just to the 51-year-old man now facing a virtual life sentence, his wife and 10 children. The government’s handling of this case has sullied our justice system.

One recalls the prosecution’s opening salvo on the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville in May 2008 – the shock-and-awe raid, replete with a Black Hawk helicopter, guns and wholesale arrests. The resources used were far disproportionate to what should have been necessary for an adequate pursuit of its investigation.

The unprecedented incarceration of immigrant workers for the types of violations that were alleged and the violations of due process, in which immigrant workers were shuttled through the court system barely understanding the proceedings, set the tone for a grossly overzealous prosecution.

The prosecution’s Javertian tenacity was unwavering and remained punitive throughout the judicial process. A sale of the business, which the Rubashkin family sought after the indictment, would have alleviated much of the bank’s losses. But the government took steps that effectively deterred any viable buyer from taking real interest.

As part of the sale process run by the federally appointed trustee, the U.S. attorney took the extraordinary measure of requiring interested buyers or investors to sign an affidavit disclosing any continued involvement with the Rubashkin family. Simply put, the government sought to bar a buyer or investor from even consulting with a member of the Rubashkin family about the business, including those who have never been accused of any crimes or wrongdoing. At the sentencing hearing, the defense referred to this measure as the “No Rubashkin edict.”

To put this measure in perspective, one must understand that the Rubashkins were a family that for more than 30 years developed the distribution of kosher meat across the country into a $300 million business. The family members were the ones who knew the wholesalers, the distributors and all the customers. Without being able to consult with those who knew the business the best, the risk of failure for a buyer or investor was too great. The bidding was suppressed, and people backed off.

Further, after the appointment of the trustee, the government took the remarkable position of threatening forfeiture and seizure of the company’s assets. This action further diminished the value of the company and exacerbated the bank’s loss. Since sentencing is informed in part by the magnitude of loss, one must conclude that the prosecution’s entanglement in the sale served ultimately to increase the number of years Sholom Rubashkin will spend behind bars.

Drawing attention to the prosecution’s excesses does not, of course, excuse the mistakes made by Sholom Rubashkin. The Orthodox Union after the indictments required that he step down from management as a condition of our providing kosher certification of his products. Rubashkin himself has acknowledged that he did not have the experience or skills suitable to run a large food operation. He was convicted of bank fraud and should pay his debt to society. But it is without question that there has been a troubling lack of balance in the prosecution of this case.

Perhaps most telling is the letter written by no less than six former attorneys general of the United States, from Ed Meese to Ramsey Clark, expressing shock at the life sentence originally proposed for Rubashkin by the U.S. attorney.

As that letter stated, “The potential absurdity of the sentencing guidelines are on full display in this case because, at least according to the government’s proposed calculations, the advisory sentencing guidelines here recommend a life sentence for Mr. Rubashkin. We cannot fathom how truly sound and sensible sentencing rules could call for a life sentence – or anything close to it – for Mr. Rubashkin, a 51-year-old, first-time, non-violent offender whose case involves many mitigating factors and whose personal history and extraordinary family circumstances suggest that sentence of a modest number of years could and would be more than sufficient to serve any and all applicable sentencing purposes.”

From the beginning, the government’s case was based on misconceptions of the family and the plant. The recent acquittal of Rubashkin on state charges that he knowingly allowed minors to work at Agriprocessors is further testimony to this false impression created by the U.S. attorney, as well as the Iowa attorney general.

About the Author: Rabbi Menachem Genack is chief executive officer of OU Kosher.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Rubashkin Sentence Sullies U.S. Justice System”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal in Gaza
Mashaal Vows Cease-Fire a Step to New ‘Resistance’ War against Israel
Latest Indepth Stories
TorahScroll AoT17

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

Troodler-082914

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

Eisenstock-082914

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

Israeli-flag

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.

One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

We risk our lives to help those who do what they can to kill to our people .

Twain grasped amazingly well the pulse of the Jewish people.

The entertainment industry appears divided about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Israelis in Gaza border communities need to get out; who will help them?

More Articles from Rabbi Menachem Genack

The unusually severe sentence of 27 years in prison for Sholom Rubashkin is a victory for a prosecution that from the outset pursued a win-at-all-costs strategy. But the success comes at a price, and not just to the 51-year-old man now facing a virtual life sentence, his wife and 10 children. The government’s handling of this case has sullied our justice system.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus believed that reality is ever in flux. “You cannot step into the same river twice,” he taught, emphasizing that the only constant is change.

Any slaughterhouse, whether kosher or non-kosher, is by definition a disconcerting, blood-filled and gruesome place. Torah law, however, is most insistent about not inflicting needless pain on animals and in emphasizing humane treatment of all living creatures.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/rubashkin-sentence-sullies-u-s-justice-system/2010/06/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: