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April 30, 2010

Federal prosecutors now seeking 25-year prison term for Rubashkin

This AP article, which is headlined "25-year term sought in Iowa slaughterhouse case," provides a recap of the conclusion of the two-day sentencing hearing in a high-profile white-collar case in Iowa. Here are some of the details:

Prosecutors asked a federal judge on Thursday to sentence a former kosher slaughterhouse executive to 25 years in prison, less than the life sentence they have said they were entitled to request.

Former Agriprocessors Inc. manager Sholom Rubashkin, who was convicted of 86 counts of financial fraud in November, gave a tearful, halting speech at the end of his sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids. He was charged following a May 2008 immigration raid at the former Agriprocessors slaughterhouse, where 389 workers were arrested on immigration charges.

Rubashkin told the court he had made mistakes and was remorseful. In a thick Brooklyn accent, he reiterated that he was sorry for his actions, and that he was put in a position by his family of running the operations of a large plant for which he had no training or interest....

Prosecutors had added up the charges in pre-sentencing documents and the total came to a life sentence. But assistant U.S. Attorney Pete Deegan said Thursday in court that the government would seek 25 years and not life, which is "usually reserved for violent criminals."

"Here you have a defendant who had everything: family, love and support," Deegan said. "And he's asking for a lesser sentence because of it."

Defense attorney Guy Cook, who had requested a six-year sentence, said the request for 25 years would essentially be a life sentence for the 50-year-old Rubashkin. Cook asked that he serve it at a facility in Otisville, N.Y., which better caters to the needs of Hasidic Jews. "He only has about 25 or 26 years left on this earth," Cook said. "Twenty-five years is a life sentence."

U.S. District Court Judge Linda Reade says she'll issue a ruling on May 27....

Deegan said there were many victims in the case: the banks who lost money to Rubashkin because of the fraud, the cattle sellers who had to take out loans to avoid closure, and the citizens of Postville, who watched their largest employer fall into bankruptcy and their town's economy crumble. Deegan said Rubashkin wasn't some far-removed corporate officer who "sets (fraud) in motion," but rather a hands-on executive who personally broke the law and directed others to do the same.

But Cook said he had gotten to know Rubashkin since he took on the case, and found him to be a deeply religious man who put the needs of others in front of his own. "It was not a Ponzi scheme, it was not a Madoff scheme," Cook said. "He made mistakes and he compounded those mistakes. And he felt trapped and didn't know how to get out."

Related posts on the Rubashkin case:

April 30, 2010 at 10:13 AM | Permalink


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Under what theory does enriching yourself with luxuries you got with money you spent years stealing count as a "mistake"?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 30, 2010 11:26:15 AM

Ahh Bill Bill Bill. Generations come and generations go, yet ever the earth remains. His first mistake was that he tried to accumulate riches. His second mistake was that he didn't make the first mistake in the legally proscribed way. His third mistake...hmmm...oh, according to Doug it's the fact he's Jewish in a Gentile legal system.

Three strikes and he's out.

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 30, 2010 1:51:45 PM

Daniel --

Do you know what greed is? Do you know what stealing is? Yikes.

"Generations come and generations go, yet ever the earth remains."

We're in agreement so far.

"His first mistake was that he tried to accumulate riches."

Wrongo. There is nothing per se wrong with trying to accumulate riches.

"His second mistake was that he didn't make the first mistake in the legally proscribed way."

"Legally prescribed way"??? I love that fancy-dance phrase. How about this: "Mr. X wanted to accumulate riches, so he belted Mr. Y over the head with a tire iron and grabbed his wallet, thus achieving his goal but not 'in the legally prescribed way.'" Do you actually think there's nothing wrong with being a thief?

"His third mistake...hmmm...oh, according to Doug it's the fact he's Jewish in a Gentile legal system."

Doug said nothing of the kind, nor would he have, since there's not a shred of evidence the defendant is being disadvantaged because of his religion. To the contrary, he's trying to GAIN an advantage by bleating about how pious he is.

I'll repeat the question you declined to answer: Under what theory does enriching yourself with luxuries you got with money you spent years stealing count as a "mistake"?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 30, 2010 4:27:04 PM


It is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Posted by: Daniel | May 1, 2010 10:15:26 AM

Daniel --

And a stitch in time saves nine.

Now that we have that straight, do you have an answer?

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 1, 2010 11:52:49 AM

Bill's like a modern-day Diogenes with a pocket full of grand-jury subpoenas; And everyone who fails his honest-man test gets one.

Posted by: John K | May 1, 2010 1:00:28 PM

United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 344-345 (1974):

"The role of the grand jury as an important instrument of effective law enforcement necessarily includes an investigatory function with respect to determining whether a crime has been committed and who committed it. . . . `When the grand jury is performing its investigatory function into a general problem area . . . society's interest is best served by a thorough and extensive investigation.' Wood v. Georgia, 370 U.S. 375, 392 (1962). A grand jury investigation `is not fully carried out until every available clue has been run down and all witnesses examined in every proper way to find if a crime has been committed.' United States v. Stone, 429 F.2d 138, 140 (CA2 1970). Such an investigation may be triggered by tips, rumors, evidence proffered by the prosecutor, or the personal knowledge of the grand jurors. Costello v. United States, 350 U.S., at 362 . It is only after the grand jury has examined the evidence that a determination of whether the proceeding will result in an indictment can be made . . . ." Id., at 701-702.

"The power of a federal court to compel persons to appear and testify before a grand jury is also firmly established. Kastigar v. United States, 406 U.S. 441 (1972). The duty to testify has long been recognized as a basic obligation that every citizen owes his Government. Blackmer v. United States, 284 U.S. 421, 438 (1932); United States v. Bryan, 339 U.S. 323, 331 (1950). In Branzburg v. Hayes, supra, at 682 and 688, the Court noted that "[c]itizens generally are not constitutionally immune from grand jury subpoenas . . ." and that "the longstanding principle that `the public . . . has a right to every man's evidence' . . . is particularly applicable to grand jury proceedings." The duty to testify may on occasion be burdensome and even embarrassing. It may cause injury to a witness' social and economic status. Yet the duty to testify has been regarded as "so necessary to the administration of justice" that the witness' personal interest in privacy must yield to the public's overriding interest in full disclosure. Blair v. United States, 250 U.S., at 281 . Furthermore, a witness may not interfere with the course of the grand jury's inquiry. He "is not entitled to urge objections of incompetency or irrelevancy, such as a party might raise, for this is no concern of his." Id., at 282. Nor is he entitled "to challenge the authority of the court or of the grand jury" or "to set limits to the investigation that the grand jury may conduct." Ibid

Those are the words of that well-known fascist pig, Lewis Powell.

BTW, since I can't get a straight answer out of Daniel, maybe I'll try you. Under what theory does enriching yourself with luxuries you got with money you spent years stealing count as a "mistake"?

P.S. Thank you for mistaking me for Diogenes. You preferred Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards and the boys? Really? Personally, yes indeed, I prefer seeking out an honest man to evasions, half-truths fake piety and "everybody else does it."

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 1, 2010 4:26:33 PM

Maybe Daniel was making the point people get caught up in things and circumstances can easily spin out of control.

To me much of what counts as federal criminal law enforcement is catching people in the act of being human and thrashing them soundly for it.

Posted by: John K | May 1, 2010 9:49:04 PM

John K --

You're a smart guy, so let me try to actually break through.

There are many components to "being human": benevolence, courage, good will, vision, creativity, diligence and charity, to name a few.

And there are other parts: greed, deceit, violence, dominance, self-centeredness and malice, to name a few.

People have a choice among which of these things they want to make part of their lives. When a person, like Rubashkin, spends years choosing greed, deceit and self-centeredness, and winds up as a result taking things he knows do not belong to him, then a sane society will indeed punish him.

Human beings are not mere passive vessels. They make choices. You portray Rubashkin, as you have portrayed others, as getting "caught up in circumstances" that "spin out of control." Completely absent from your picture is Rubashkin's will. Like many (but fortunately not all that many) people, he wanted luxuries without working for them, so he just stole them.

Both justice and prudence dictate that he be punished. With all respect, any other view of human nature is just disconnected from reality.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 2, 2010 11:45:56 AM

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