Amicus Briefs Urge Reduction in Rubashkin Sentence


We first posted about Sholom Rubashkin—the former plant manager at the now-defunct Agriprocessors, Inc. — back in May 2010, when Rubashkin was awaiting sentence for more than 80 counts of fraud in connection with his operation of the kosher slaughterhouse.

Since then, Chief U.S. District Judge Linda Reade of the Northern District of Iowa sentenced Rubashkin to 27 years in prison, an action that sparked an outcry from various quarters. Very recently, a trio of prominent legal advocacy groups — the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) —filed amicus curiae briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, asking the court to vacate the sentence and remand the case to another trial judge for resentencing. These somewhat unlikely allies are united in their effort to reduce what they see as an unfair and draconian sentence.

As we previously reported, prosecutors originally sought a life sentence for Rubashkin under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, a decision that was widely criticized. Prosecutors eventually changed their tune and asked for a 25-year sentence. Judge Reade, however, decided to ignore the prosecutors’ request and the outpouring of support for Rubashkin, instead sentencing the first-time offender to 27 years in federal prison. In August, Rubashkin’s lawyers moved unsuccessfully for a new trial, arguing that Reade had clearly showed bias against Rubashkin in view of evidence that Reade had had undisclosed discussions with prosecutors and immigration officials in the days leading up to the Agriprocessors raid. In their January 4, 2011, brief to the appeals court, Rubashkin’s lawyers cited this evidence and argued that Rubashkin’s conviction should be overturned or that a new judge should be appointed for a new trial.

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