On Wednesday, students at Chabad yeshivas everywhere burst in song and dance after the White House had announced that President Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, a move supported by leaders “from across the political spectrum, from Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) to Orrin Hatch (R-Ut).”
Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, 58, an American Chabad rabbi, used to be the CEO of a kosher slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant in Postville, Iowa, which he had grown into the largest kosher meat producer in the United States, until the plant was cited for animal mistreatment, food and environmental safety issues, child labor, and employing illegal aliens.
Then, in November 2009, Rubashkin was convicted of 86 counts of financial fraud, including bank fraud, mail and wire fraud and money laundering, and in June 2010 was sentenced to 27 years in a Federal Correctional Institution in Mount Hope, New York. In 2011, an appeals court ruled against his petition, and in 2012 The US Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal of that ruling.
“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,” President Trump’s announcement noted, reflecting deep resentments over the exceptionally harsh sentence in the Jewish community as well as in the legal community at the time of the trial.
In fact, six amicus briefs were filed with the Supreme Court supporting Rubashkin’s appeal—which the court refused to touch, from 86 former federal judges and Department of Justice officials (27 federal judges, two Attorneys General, one Inspector General, two FBI directors, four Deputy Attorneys General and one Solicitor General), the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Washington Legal Foundation, 40 legal ethics professors, the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers, and the Justice Fellowship.
“This action is not a Presidential pardon,” President Trump wrote. “It does not vacate Mr. Rubashkin’s conviction, and it leaves in place a term of supervised release and a substantial restitution obligation, which were also part of Mr. Rubashkin’s sentence.”
Nevertheless, President Trump noted that his decision to commute Rubashkin’s sentence was 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,” Trump wrote.