IOWA — Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin will be sentenced to 27 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $31 million restitution when he’s sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court. Supporters of Rubashkin expressed outrage after the announcement. The sentence is inconsistent with calls from legal community for judge to avoid disparity of justice.
Sentencing Memorandum for 27 Years in Federal Penitentiary
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Linda Reade issued a sentencing memorandum Monday outlining the sentence she will impose on Sholom Rubashkin during Tuesday’s hearing in Cedar Rapids. Reade indicated in the document she would not impose a fine.
Rubashkin’s attorney Guy Cook says the sentence is unfair and excessive that that Rubashkin’s conviction and sentencing will be appealed.
Supporters of Sholom Rubashkin Outraged by Excessive Prison Sentence
Family, friends and supporters of Sholom Rubashkin expressed outrage Monday after the federal court announced a sentence of 27 years in prison for Rubashkin for his bank fraud conviction. The sentence is greater than the amended recommendation from prosecutors, and is inconsistent with calls from throughout the legal community for Rubashkin to be sentenced in a manner similar to other men and women convicted of white-collar crimes.
“The sentence is greater than necessary, indeed, it is greater than what the government asked for,” said Guy Cook, a member of Rubashkin’s legal defense team. “It is unfair and excessive, essentially a life sentence for a 51-year-old man, and is not in the public interest.”
The Hon. Bob Barr announced Monday that Rubashkin will appeal the verdict and the sentence.
“This sentence is inconsistent with the overwhelming view of the legal community, including six former U.S. attorneys general, who have all said a first-time, non-violent offense does not warrant a multi-decade sentence,” Barr said. “The court’s sentence today is even more than prosecutors asked for, which is a very disturbing development.”
Rubashkin’s attorneys had asked the court to impose a sentence no greater than 72 months, noting his positive history and character and his extraordinary family circumstances. They emphasized that Rubashkin’s conduct was not done for personal gain, that he did not intend any loss to the bank, and that a 72-month sentence would allow the Bureau of Prisons to place Rubashkin in a facility with experience in effectively and humanely incarcerating observant Jewish inmates.
Prosecutors, however, recommended 25 years in prison for Rubashkin. The extreme recommendation sparked outrage amongst legal scholars, with more than two dozen former senior Justice Department officials – including six former U.S. attorneys general – criticizing the prosecutors’ recommendation in a letter to Judge Reade. Rubashkin also garnered support from a wide array of political, legal and community leaders, who expressed dismay at the potential for Rubashkin to receive such a harsh sentence.
“It is heartbreaking to see the judge and the prosecution make an example out of Sholom Rubashkin at the expense of his family and his community,” said his wife, Leah. “What has happened today is inconsistent with the idea of equal justice under the law. All we have asked is that he be treated the same as everyone else.”
Rubashkin’s sentence is particularly harsh when compared to others convicted of similar crimes. Mark Turkcan, the president of First Bank Mortgage of St. Louis, who misapplied $35 million in loans, resulting in a loss of approximately $25 million, was recently sentenced by a federal judge in Missouri to one year and one day in prison.
The Rubashkin family and its supporters remain committed to pursuing all avenues towards a fair sentence, including appeal. They continue to call on the Justice Department to investigate the pattern of overzealous prosecution in the Rubashkin case, which included the life sentence recommendation.
“The way this case was handled may go down in history as a permanent stain on American justice,” said Nathan Lewin, an attorney overseeing Rubashkin’s appeal. “Sholom Rubashkin has been targeted by prosecutors in Iowa from the very beginning, and has been treated unlike other similar defendants. We have asked, and continue to ask, the Justice Department to review the numerous instances of prosecutors stepping outside the bounds of standard and decent conduct in this case.”
In addition to the uncharacteristically severe sentence recommendation, Rubashkin has been subjected to numerous instances of harsh or disparate treatment by prosecutors and the government. The Agriprocessors meatpacking plant he oversaw was subjected to a military style raid in May 2008, which had disastrous effects on the Postville community and could have been avoided if Immigrations and Customs Enforcement had agreed to the plant’s offer to cooperate.
After the raid, Rubashkin was subjected to seven superseding indictments and denied bail before trial because of claims by prosecutors that he could flee to Israel because he is Jewish. While Rubashkin was eventually released on bail after no sufficient evidence was found that he was a flight risk, Rubashkin was again denied bail before sentencing and deemed a “flight risk.”
And before trial, the District Judge severed the trial of the 72 immigration violations in the Seventh Superseding Indictment from the 91 bank-fraud charges. Nonetheless, contending that he committed bank fraud when he represented to the bank that Agri was complying with the law, the Iowa prosecutors presented more than two days of highly inflammatory testimony regarding the immigration allegations during the bank-fraud trial. The District Judge denied repeated defense requests for a mistrial.
Rubashkin was cleared by a jury last month of having personal knowledge of, and criminal liability for, the employment of minors at Agriprocessors. That was the only case brought to trial on Rubashkin’s involvement in the hiring practices of Agriprocessors. The federal charges that he was involved in hiring illegal immigrants have been dismissed.