By GRANT SCHULTE and WILLIAM PETROSKI • [email protected] • November 19, 2009
Federal prosecutors dismissed all immigration charges against former Postville meat plant manager Sholom Rubashkin today, one week after a South Dakota jury convicted him of 86 business-fraud charges.
The decision spares Rubashkin a second federal trial on 72 immigration-related charges. But the former vice president at Agriprocessors, Inc. still could spend the rest of his life in prison. The maximum sentence for his convictions adds to 1,255 years.
Federal jurors convicted Rubashkin last week of all but five of the 91 business fraud charges listed in a 163-count indictment. But supporters of Rubashkin, the former vice president at Agriprocessors, Inc. in Postville, continued to maintain that he had done nothing illegal.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr., one of three federal prosecutors who argued the case, wrote in court papers that any further convictions “would be entirely eclipsed by (Rubashkin’s) recommended guideline sentence on the counts for which he has already been convicted.”
Deegan said Rubashkin has already been convicted of the most serious charges listed in the indictment. Dismissing the charges also will avoid an extended and costly trial and lessen the inconvenience to possible witnesses, he said.
This is not to minimize the importance of those counts, but at least of the purpose of the advisory sentencing guideline range, any convictions on (the immigration counts) would have no impact on the defendant’s sentence,” Deegan wrote.
Deegan also said the jury’s verdicts on several of the fraud and false statement counts were premised, at least in part, upon Rubashkin knowingly making false statements to the bank with regard to the harboring of undocumented aliens at Agriprocessors Inc.
He also said the jury found that Rubashkin committed his crimes by falsely stating Agriprocessors was in compliance with all laws when Agriprocessors and its employees were harboring or conspiring to harbor undocumented aliens.
U.S. District Judge Linda Reade issued an order this afternoon which granted the prosecution’s motion to dismiss the immigration charges.
Rubashkin lawyer Guy Cook said he viewed the dismissal of the immigration charges as a victory for his client.
“Frankly, the government should have done this a long time ago. In spite of the way the government characterizes things in its motion, we believe it overstates the verdict on the financial case in South Dakota. Rubaskin has steadfastly denied the immigration charges. He has pled not guilty. In spite of the raid of May 12, he continues to assert he committed no crimes,” Cook said.
Bob Teig, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said he could not comment.
Rubashkin is being held in the Linn County Correctional Center in Cedar Rapids. He is awaiting a ruling by Reade on a request by his lawyers that he be released on bail while he is awaiting sentencing.
Cook said he plans to file a motion this week for a new trial, based on what the defense believes are legal errors in the prosecution and trial of the case. If the new trial motion is not granted, an appeal will be filed, he said.
Wednesday bail hearing turned testy
A bail hearing for Rubashkin turned testy Wednesday when a prosecutor accused him of lying in court.
The bail hearing in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids followed Rubashkin’s conviction last week on 86 counts of financial fraud. His attorneys argued he should be allowed to remain free on bail until he is sentenced. Prosecutors claimed he is a flight risk.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan said Rubashkin committed bank fraud when he was released on bail following his initial arrest in October 2008. The accusation sparked a heated exchange between Deegan and Rubashkin, who was on the witness stand.
“When you testified at trial, you didn’t give truthful testimony, did you?” Deegan asked.
“I think you’re lying under cross-examination,” Rubashkin responded.
Neither defense attorney Guy Cook nor U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Bob Teig would comment after the hearing.
When he was first arrested, Rubashkin’s attorneys said his ties to his 10 children, the expectations of the Jewish community and the financial support of thousands of donors would keep him from leaving the country.
Deegan argued Wednesday that things have changed: Now that Rubashkin faces a certain jail sentence, he’s more likely to leave the country and take his family with him, using the money from donors.