CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — Former Agriprocessors CEO Sholom Rubashkin asks for a change of venue for his September trial because of extensive pretrial publicity.
The motion filed late Thursday in U.S. District Court claims Rubashkin wasn’t the CEO, as the media continues to wrongly report, and asks to move the trial outside this district to Minneapolis or Chicago.
Rubashkin, 49, of Postville, faces 99 federal counts stemming from the May 12 immigration raid at the Postville meatpacking plant. The charges include bank fraud, money laundering, identity theft and harboring and aiding and abetting illegal workers.
Rubashkin was released from jail Wednesday after two months on a $500,000 commercial surety bond and has to wear an electronic monitoring device.
The motion claims the pretrial publicity has left the impression that Rubashkin is the “mastermind behind all the bad” that has happened to Agriprocessors employees, finances and the town of Postville. The motion argues that Rubashkin isn’t the company’s CEO and that never had that type of control, as the media has suggested.
The determination of whether Rubashkin was the leader of Agriprocessors is a vital issue for the jury to decide because it may determine how much he knew regarding the different facets of the organization, the motion argues.
“Defendant Rubashkin has a story to tell,” according to the motion. But he won’t tell that story until he’s in court, where a jury will determine his guilt or innocence, the motion argues.
The pretrial publicity deprives Rubashkin of a fair trial, the motion argues. Gov. Chet Culver wrote an essay that was published in the Des Moines Register that gave an unsolicited pretrial assessment of Rubashkin’s and other managers’ guilt. Culver wrote “Agriprocessors and/or management has chosen to take advantage of a failed federal immigration system.”
The motion also cites harmful or biased articles from the Associated Press, The Gazette, The Des Moines Register, The Decorah Newspapers, Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier and Steven Bloom’s book, “Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America.”
It’s unlikely a juror in this district could consider contrary evidence, the motion claimed. Any Iowan would feel they could pass judgment on Rubashkin “when Gov. Culver has already provided a pretrial guilty verdict.” There were also numerous articles quoting people from Postville and in other areas of the state who had derogatory remarks about Rubashkin and the company.