Defense Rests After Leah Rubashkin Testifies in Trial

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Moishe Rubashkin, 16, left, greets his father, defendant Sholom Rubashkin, right, former Agriprocessors co-vice president, after his child labor trial ending early for lunch at the Black Hawk County Courthouse in Waterloo, Iowa on Tuesday, June 1.

WATERLOO, IA — Testimony has ended in the child labor trial of Sholom Rubashkin.

After a lunch break, the defense indicated it didn’t have any more witnesses, and the state didn’t call any rebuttal witnesses.

Judge Nathan Callahan excused the jury at 1:20 p.m., reminding them to not view or read any news accounts of the trial. He asked them to return Thursday at 10 a.m. for closing arguments.

The court still has to finalize the jury instructions with the prosecution and defense.

Callahan also said he will dismiss some of the charges against Rubashkin. The defense had asked the court to throw out charges that listed as victims minors who didn’t testify.

Of the 31 minors named in the charges, five didn’t take the stand. That translated into 16 counts, according to a tally in the defense’s motion.

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Sholom Rubashkin was busy in his job at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville and traveled a lot for work, according to his wife.

Rubashkin, former Agriprocessors executive, is on trial for 83 counts of misdemeanor child labor violations, and his trial resumed Tuesday morning in Black Hawk County District Court with his wife, Leah Rubashkin, taking the stand.

She recounted a list of business and family trips to California, Florida, New York, South Dakota, Canada and Israel her husband took in 2007 through 2008.

Leah Rubashkin, who appears to be one of the defense’s last witnesses, also talked about sneaking in to bring her husband lunch at his office when he was at the Postville plant. She said there were usually three or four people waiting to have meetings with him, and although she could get in, it usually took him 15 to 20 minutes before he could acknowledge her.

Earlier in the trial, former underage workers testifying for the prosecution said they occasionally saw Sholom Rubashkin on the plant floor.

During Tuesday’s testimony, Leah Rubashkin said her husband was sometimes mistaken for his younger brother, Heshy, who also worked at the plant.

Leah Rubashkin told jurors her husband came from a very observant Jewish family and described how her own family started the transition to become more observant when she was around 11 years old.

Asked about her husband’s appearance, Leah Rubashkin said he wears the yarmulke cap to remind him that God is always above him. She said he dons his long black coat daily — an item some Jewish men only wear on the Sabbath — because of his dedication. She said the religion forbids him from shaving off his beard.

She said Sholom Rubashkin finished the process of becoming a Rabbi about the time they were married 28 years ago. He worked in his father’s New York butcher shop after they were wed, and the couple did outreach work in Atlanta, Ga., for about year.

They later moved to Minnesota, and for three years Sholom Rubashkin commuted to Postville when his father bought the meatpacking plant there. They then moved to Postville about 17 years ago, she said.

Another defense witness called Tuesday, Rodney Heston, whose company redesigned the industrial refrigeration system at Agriprocessors, also said Sholom Rubashkin was “extremely busy” at his job.

He said it usually took an appointment and an hour of waiting to see the executive when he went to the plant.

Wayne Hecker, who had worked at Agriprocessors, said there was never a formal chain of command at the plant. He said Sholom Rubashkin was in charge of the business side of the operation, and Rubashkin’s brother oversaw sales and production.

Hecker told jurors about an incident where a son or daughter of a supervisor was fired because he or she wasn’t old enough to work in meatpacking operations.

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