The Fate of an Iowa Butcher — Scapegoat or Cautionary Tale?


On June 22, 2010, Chief U.S. District Judge Linda Reade of the Northern District of Iowa will impose a sentence on Sholom Rubashkin, formerly the plant manager at Agriprocessors, Inc., the now-defunct Postville, Iowa, kosher slaughterhouse.

The sentencing comes more than two years after a massive immigration raid that netted a total of 289 undocumented workers and led to Rubashkin’s arrest and conviction. Rubashkin originally faced a life sentence for more than 80 counts of fraud in connection with his operation of the slaughterhouse. During his closing argument on April 30, 2010, U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan asked the federal judge for a sentence of 25 years, which is less than the life sentence originally requested by prosecutors.

Using the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, prosecutors determined that Rubashkin’s crimes warranted a life term in prison given the many victims in the case, including the banks and cattle owners who lost money to Rubashkin because of the fraud. This determination was roundly criticized by Rubashkin supporters— including prominent members of the Orthodox Jewish community and several former U.S. attorneys. The prosecutor’s decision to ask for only 25 years may be related to the outpouring of support for a lesser sentence.

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