Friday, June 18, 2010

Fairness for Sholom Rubashkin

In one of the most moving speeches I’ve ever heard, the son of a man of faith and of exceptional good deeds, relayed how his father was convicted in one of the most surreal cases of prosecutorial overkill, conducted after a media onslaught started by far left groups in the Midwest. The case of Sholom Rubashkin is indeed as shocking as it is outrageous, and hearing from an attorney involved in the case, as well as his son, was a grieving experience that should motivate all who care to action.

Five years ago, PETA, which had all but declared war on Biblically sanctioned meat slaughter (the slaughter of livestock in the manner prescribed in the Book of Leviticus), went on a rampage against Agri Foodprocessors, the nation’s largest Kosher slaughterhouse. The CEO, Sholom Rubashkin, had taken great pains to bring down the price of “kosher,” or Biblically sanctioned meat, so that more people could afford it with ease. Although his efforts were rewarded with tremendous success, he and his family continued to live extremely modestly, with the savings passed on to consumers.

Rubashkin was charged federally and by the State of Iowa with multiple immigration violations. In truth, evidence showed that tens of potential employees were turned away by Rubashkin and his company due to lack of papers. Most of the charges were thrown out, and Rubashkin was acquitted on all of the ones that weren’t.

Virtually simultaneously, prosecutors claimed that a line of credit with a bank was being obtained “fraudulently.” The bank knew the nature of the transactions, was always paid on time until the government shut down the plant over supposed immigration violations (of which Rubashkin was acquitted) and most of all, Rubashkin never profited directly from the line of credit. Yet this was the substance of their case against him.

It gets worse. There’s also an almost 90 year old law on the books whereby purchasers of cattle must pay for livestock within one day of the purchase agreement. This was some arcane Depression Era law that is unknown and never enforced. Rubashkin was tried and convicted for buying cattle and paying for them a few days later. It is the only known case since the statute’s writing where that statute has ever been prosecuted.

In short, what emerged is one of the most unfair cases of overkill that commenced after pressure from activist groups, groups that should have no place in the legal arena. In the meantime, a good man and his family are suffering beyond belief.

Rubashkin was a pillar of the community at large. He funded preschools, camps, food banks and more in Iowa for groups of all faiths and creeds. When workers couldn’t pay rent or needed surgery for their kids, he regularly helped them as few others would. That much was attested to by former day laborers who worked at his meat plant, as well as by numerous organizations and schools that he helped.

Sholom Rubashkin is a father of 10 children, including a son with autism. His older son related how Rubashkin would make sure to have dinner with his special needs child every day at 6pm without fail, followed by spending time conversing or playing with his son. Rubashkin would often have to go back to the office for many hours afterward, but he made sure to spend time with his child who needed him most every evening.

Six former United States Attorney Generals, ranging from Edwin Meese on the right to Janet Reno on the left, have signed a letter decrying the prosecution’s proposed sentencing guidelines. Former Solicitor General and United States Judge Kenneth Starr has also signed on to the letter.

I’m not sure exactly what to do, but I do know that silence is not an option, at least not a humane one. Friends and supporters of Sholom Rubashkin have started a website,, and I’d urge people to view the case in its entirety and get involved in whatever action alerts they send out.

Even as people gathered to help Rubashkin, his family used the gathering as an opportunity to help find a bone marrow donor for an unrelated child in need. These are good people and the sight was moving. They deserve each of our support.

Rubashkin’s son spoke of his father’s great faith and relayed numerous stories of how his father’s reason for living has always been to serve the Almighty and to help his fellow human beings. It would be a shame not to help a man like him when he’s faced such a clear and over the top injustice. Our involvement is crucial and there can be no greater deed than to help those who’ve been unfairly persecuted. I urge readers to speak out and act.

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