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Life Sentence For Rubashkin Would Be Unfair
Tue, 04/20/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

People who do bad things should be punished. It is something we learn in our schools and teach in our synagogues.

But as Jews, we are often conflicted when one of our own commits a crime. While a sense of community may give some the urge to protect a community member, we are embarrassed that the crime has come from someone who carries a Jewish identity. And we are steadfast that those responsible must face the same punishment as everyone else. Advocating for or even anticipating anything less would send the wrong message about our community.

That is how we have behaved in recent years, taking the lead in criticizing the actions of Bernard Madoff, among others, responsible for high-profile financial malfeasance. And, likewise, many Jews have had little sympathy for Sholom Rubashkin, the executive at Agriprocessors, the kosher meat processor in Postville, Iowa, who was accused among other things, of employing illegal immigrants and who was convicted last year of 94 counts of bank fraud.

Yet at the same time, we must be careful not to allow our visceral anger over someone who has yet again embarrassed us to prevent us from seeing true injustice being done, or to be afraid to speak out when it happens. The Jewish community has been too quiet in recent months as prosecutors and the government have treated Rubashkin in a manner inconsistent with how it has treated others convicted of comparable crimes. Now that prosecutors are seeking life in prison for Rubashkin’s bank fraud conviction (the immigration charges were dropped), we must truly pause to reflect whether the punishment fits the crime, and whether we need to speak out. (He is scheduled to be sentenced at a hearing on April 28-29 in Cedar Rapids.)

Rubashkin has been denied the most basic of humanitarian and religious accommodations and repeatedly been targeted by prosecutors seeking to justify the way they woefully disrupted a community and the kosher meat industry through their heavy-handed tactics.

What Rubashkin did was wrong. He was convicted of inflating invoices and submitting them to his bank, in order to receive more money in loans to operate the business. But we must remember that Agriprocessors continuously paid interest on these loans, and the bank actually earned $21 million from the interest payments. The bank lost money only after Agriprocessors was forced into bankruptcy, after the government raided it with Blackhawk helicopters and 600 federal agents in May 2008.

Rubashkin deserves to be punished. And his punishment should be in line with that of those convicted of similar crimes and who have done comparable damage. For instance, Enron’s former CEO Jeffrey Skilling, whose crimes were arguably far more damaging, got 24 years in prison. And Mark Turkcan, the president of the St. Louis bank whose crime caused nearly $25 million in losses, was sentenced to just 366 days in jail.

But a sentence of life in prison is unbelievably outrageous, and inconsistent with others convicted of similar crimes, who have received probation or about a year in jail. Perhaps prosecutors are aiming high, with the goal the judge will sentence Rubashkin to “just” 20 years in prison.

It is just the latest example of him being treated inconsistently compared to others accused of similar crimes, and the Jewish community should be asking questions. This is the same prosecutor who convinced a judge that Rubashkin was a flight risk before trial because of Israel’s right of return. Under this condition, aren’t all Jews flight risks? The Jewish community, including the Anti-Defamation League, rightly spoke out against that injustice.

And even though the ruling was overturned on appeal, and Rubashkin complied with every criteria of his bail, he is locked up today before sentencing, scheduled for next week, once again deemed a “flight risk,” only this time without explanation. The court refused to allow Rubashkin to go home for Passover seders, even though the Iowa prison where he sits is ill-equipped to meet his religious needs.

We must put aside any personal dislike towards Rubashkin and Agriprocessors, see what is being done to him at this moment and ask, “Is it fair? Is it right? And isn’t it our duty as a community to stand up and speak out when injustice is done?” We have a proud history of speaking out when injustice is being done to those outside of our community. Why cannot we do the same when it is one of our own?

We have done this before. Jews have come to the aid and defense of Jonathan Pollard, not because they believe he did the right thing, but because we truly believe he has been treated unfairly by our justice system, and that the punishment did not fit the crime. Rubashkin is no Pollard, but the similarities in how they have both been treated unfairly are striking. Once again, we are looking at a Jewish man being treated in a way different from everyone else, and it is time for us as a community to ask for answers. 

Jeff Stier is chairman of the board of Jewish International Connections, NY, a community for Jewish internationals living in New York.

 

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Comments

Do a google search on Judge Linda Reade...read for yourself how many others feel that there is something fishy here and with some of her other cases. Can it be that there are power that be, that want things to end in a certain way?
BRAVO! to the Jewish Week for finally giving a glimpse to what is really going on. tzedek, tzedek tirdoff. justice, justice you shall pursue. Rubashkins denial of bail has been a huge miscarriage of justice. Rubashkin was imprisoned before he was sentenced. The Jewish community's silence has been deafening and alarming. Thank you Jewish week for speaking out finally and the injustice of Rubashkins treatment evidently the treatment no other white man in America has received for crimes like this.
Very well said As the saying goes, "if the hat fits, wear it!" I sincerely hope that the U.S. Gov't will seriously look into that. What they're doing to Rubashkin does not at all fit his crime (the hat is too big) I hope and pray that the court will give him a hat that fits just right. Also, I believe this case should be taken to a state with a larger Jewish population where the judges know more about Jews than them having horns; I think they'll understand it better
B"H This smacks of double jeopardy prohibited in the fifth amendment of the constitution. Technically it may be exempt from it yet it surely flies in the face of the spirit of the constitution. He committed one violation by exaggerating the value of his plant. The prosecution contrived a way to grow new violations from one act. How many violations would they find in driving over the speed limit? - analyze the car's computer and charge for every acceleration while driving over the limit, - each mile as a separate offence, - illegal activity on public land, etc. Punishment should be reflecting for the one crime he was found guilty of. JoeG
This columnist said it all! Where is the investigation into Rubashkin's Civil Rights being violated? Where is the outcry? An armed military-style raid right here in middle America! For the perceived crime of using illegals! Let's be real, even if that were true (which TURNED OUT TO BE FALSE), but half the economies in any major city on the 2 coasts are sustained with the use of illegals. Do we see Blackhawks swooping down on NYC or LA? I think not! Yet this is exactly what was done in the quiet backwater of Postville, Iowa. Which directly resulted in a business losing the use of a large portion of its skilled labor force. So in order to keep the business afloat, which directly impacts the livelihood of possibly thousands, while fighting off the "alligators" a person may have fudged some numbers? For this we even mention the possibility of LIFE? For the amounts involved, people who clearly embezzled these kinds of sums motivated purely out of greed, were sentenced to less than 2 years. This man was motivated out of desperation, not greed, and THAT should be taken into account. Additionally, he has served a pretty tough sentence already. For a time, even his wife could not see him and this was all while awaiting trial! What happened to the basic premise of "INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY beyond a reasonable doubt"? I can only hope that the American Judicial System in not completely broken and the Judge sees through all the smokescreens put up by the Prosecution. In G-d We Trust!
How is it that in most of the country the prosecutors believe that 1 year is sufficient for this type of crime and yet in IOWA the prosecutor believe that life behind bars is warranted... is this the same country we live in?
Thanks for supporting Rubashkin. Its pretty obviously a conspiracy, somebody is behind all this that want's to get rid of him G-d forbid. We must stand up and make ourselves heard. Justice must be done!
It's a great travesty of justice in more than one way. First that this case been handled in an obviously outrageous manner, and second that the Justice Dept refuses to get involved in this blatant case of injustice after being requested to do so by Rubashkin's lawyer.
How is it that in most of the country the prosecutors believe that 1 year is sufficient for this type of crime and yet in IOWA the prosecutor believe that life behind bars is warranted... is this the same country
In this great country we expect that all citizens be treated FAIRLY and EQUALLY. In the Rubashkin case it seems to be very clear that he is being handled and treated in a much more stringent manner - many times worse then other have recently be handled with the exact same (or worse) charges. This is truly an outrage! here, in the USA???
"We must put aside any personal dislike towards Rubashkin and Agriprocessors, see what is being done to him at this moment and ask, “Is it fair? Is it right? And isn’t it our duty as a community to stand up and speak out when injustice is done?” We have a proud history of speaking out when injustice is being done to those outside of our community. Why cannot we do the same when it is one of our own?" Well said, sir. Well said.
Well said. What is happening is a miscarriage of justice.
B"H Thank you for writing. I hope this will motivate the Jewish community to vocalize their concern. In truth all Americans should be concerned. Justice and equal rights must be a standard in a democratic environment, and when it's not we are all in trouble. I hope the Judge will maintain the integrity of our countries judicial system
Mr. Rubashkin has already paid for what he's done wrong. He had no ulterior motives, no intentions of scamming innocent people of their hard earned money. He deserves to be treated fairly!
This is how low the american justice dept. has stooped... biased prosecutors with a vendetta actually daring to go the full length of advising life in prison, and the judges go ahead with it??
It's a sad time for America. Truth takes a long time to prevail. This time it's a father of 10 (one of which is autistic)who's hurting. Is he being treated more harshly because he is obviously Jewish? Is it because mid-America deep within dispises the 'big city' businessman and now it's their turn to show power? Unions? PITA? Possibly all of the above. The small guys must speak up. Can we sleep knowing we have done nothing to help his family sleep too?
I agree with you that life sentence is outrageous in this case. I really hope he gets fair sentencing.
"blind" justice means justice without bias etc. - according to the prosecution in this case in this case "blind" seems to mean without common sense... how does such a great system of justice become so absurdly perverted?
Without throwing facts and statistics that clearly define the unprecedented and disproportionate degree to which Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin is being persecuted, certainly everyone involved is familiar with the facts. I do however feel obligated as a human being to express both my horror at the situation, and the fact that it makes me feel disgusted to be a citizen of a country that in 2010 can so openly albeit unofficially persecute the Jew just like so many have done in the past. Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin is universally known as a kind and loving man, accepting charitable to anyone he can possibly help in any way. No one (aside perhaps from those who are hunting and persecuting him with a vengance) who has ever met Mr. Rubashkinb would ever have anything other that positive to say about him. Surely it is not too much to expect that a citizen of our "democratic" country, a father of ten children one of whom is severely handicapped, be treated in an equivalent fashion to other members of this society, and not hunted and persecuted to the most excessive degree possible within the limits of the law.
Without throwing facts and statistics that clearly define the unprecedented and disproportionate degree to which Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin is being persecuted, certainly everyone involved is familiar with the facts. I do however feel obligated as a human being to express both my horror at the situation, and the fact that it makes me feel disgusted to be a citizen of a country that in 2010 can so openly albeit unofficially persecute the Jew just like so many have done in the past. Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin is universally known as a kind and loving man, accepting charitable to anyone he can possibly help in any way. No one (aside perhaps from those who are hunting and persecuting him with a vengance) who has ever met Mr. Rubashkinb would ever have anything other that positive to say about him. Surely it is not too much to expect that a citizen of our "democratic" country, a father of ten children one of whom is severely handicapped, be treated in an equivalent fashion to other members of this society, and not hunted and persecuted to the most excessive degree possible within the limits of the law.
We have to wake up and realize that the situation here is not getting better! We should all be holding a demonstration in Iowa outside his prison with 1 Million Jews! Send Shalom free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Would this be an effective deterrent?:If you fix the books we will confiscate your entire business and destroy your life's work, you'll pay massive fines, smear your name all over the world and your family will suffer tremendous humiliation, and you'll do six months in prison."? I think it would. For all practical purposes a 20 year sentence IS (almost) a life sentence. Sholom Mordechai has been through enough!!! More than enough!!!
A life sentence or anything close to it would be a great miscarriage of justice. I do not understand why the Justice department has refused to get involved. I would only hope the judge uses some common sense and does not listen to the unjust and unfair recommendation of the prosecutors.
Its an outrage. He has already served more than enough in prison!
It is hard to believe that in America in this day and age such a clear injustice can occur.
well said. Mr. Rubashkin should be punished according to the standards set by other criminals who commited like crimes. It seems our justice system is acting extremely biased.
submitted by anonymous in Thursday, 4/22/2010 The way this case has been handled is outrageous.Every citizen is entitled to fair and just treatment.Judge Reade should have recused herself from this trial. It seems they have an agenda.Terrorists are treated more fairly.
The life sentence being considered for Mr. Rubashkin is entirely out of proportion both to the crimes he was convicted of as well as to the sentences meted out to others convicted of similar crimes. The citizens of the US should take a good hard look at the way this case has been handled from the very beginning and demand fair and equal justice for Mr. Rubashkin.
"Personal; dislike"? What exactly are you referring to? A "personal dislike" of the secular Jew to the religious? How distasteful!
"Enron’s former CEO Jeffrey Skilling, whose crimes were arguably far more damaging, got 24 years in prison" Arguably???!!!!Enron's bankruptcy, which came from overtly dishonest and abusive treatment of other people's money, cost 20,000 employees their jobs and many of them their life savings. Investors lost billions! Mr. Rubashkin was not engaged in any kind of robbery in the first place; he was guilty of no more than illegally qualifying himself for a loan from the bank (who later spoke up for him to the Govt.) on which he kept up with timely payments. A friend of mine told me that when he was applying for a mortgage for his first house, this is the way the VP of the bank spoke with him: VP: "Do you have a business?" "No." VP: "What do you do for a living?" "Principal of a private school" VP: "Oh, so you are the owner of a business. How much is it worth?" "You would never be able to find a buyer for such a thing". VP: "How much revenue annually?" "$250,000.00" VP: "Oh, so it's worth at least 10 times that figure." My friend got his loan. He's probably guilty of bank fraud, and should be put away for life. I imagine Rubashkin was similarly "coached" by the bank as to how to file. In this type of thing, you probably would never do it yourself, but if you have a bank behind you suggesting these things, youy probably figure, "if the bank is advising me, it must be pretty much ok"
As Mr. Stier so eloquently stated, it is our duty as a community to stand up when injustices are being done. We cannot and must not stand idly by when one of our brethren is facing life behind bars. Life in prison is reserved for society's most gruesome criminals. Mr Rubashkin, a benevolent, charitable devoted father and husband, deserves a FAIR trial. May Hashem protect him from the pernicious prosecutors.
As Mr. Stier so eloquently stated, it is our duty as a community to stand up when injustices are being done. We cannot and must not stand idly by when one of our brethren is facing life behind bars. Life in prison is reserved for society's most gruesome criminals. Mr Rubashkin, a benevolent, charitable devoted father and husband, deserves a FAIR trial. May Hashem protect him from the pernicious prosecutors.
This is utterly shicking. How did it come to this? Perhaps i do not understand everything about the case BUT one thing I do undertsand is that Sholom Rubashkin is being treated ina very unfair and cruel manner. To be denied what every other convicted person gets is UNJUST!! G-d have mercy and help!!
Bravo on differentiating between guilt and justice. We must demand fair justice and nothing more. What the Judge is considering is outrageous!
Thank you for an informative article. This is clearly unfair! what can we do to protest?
I am amazed that this situation has come to this. What an outrage this ought to be causing!
It appears that someone has an ax to grind with Shalom so they looked high and low to incriminate him. The jerks at PETA, who will probably be turned into animals in the next world, as well as the unions and possibly other enemies looked for a way to have Shalom locked up. There is probably someone being paid off to make sure that Shalom sits.
paid off I wouldn't know about, but there is certainly a concerted effort here; we need an investigation into why he was selected in the first case, and, if found to be on faulty methods, he should be set free.
Well said. The 'justice' of the American Justice system raises many concerns. As I understand it, the one who ordered the raid may not be a judge in the case. However Judge Linda Reade both ordered the raid on Agriprocessors and is the judge in this case on Sholom Rubashkin. Is this justice? Don't the judges also have to keep to the rules?
Could you quote some chapter and verse on this? Sounds interesting!
Agreed. The intense and extreme prosecution and sentencing of this case raises the proverbial "red flags" all over the place. Jewish people must speak up. You may not like what someone has done, but they are entitled to fair and equal treatment under the law!
I completely agree
Well said...We all need to be concerned with the way "justice" is being used in this case. When the justice system turns unfair and allows judges to ruin people's lives with no good cause it becomes a reason for all Americans to worry.
Thank you for writing about this story. However, if you would do more research in the case. you would find that the counts to the bank fraud you mentioned are not accurate at all. and they are comepletly not accurate. Sholom Rubashkin is innocent and a very righteous person who had sat long enough. may G-d have pity on him and truth prevail.

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