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Rabbis call for Rubashkin’s release
Former Agriprocessors chief executive Sholom Rubashkin, now in jail on bank fraud and immigration charges, should be released, said his defense attorney, flanked by several rabbis at a press conference in Dubuque Monday.
Rubashkin, a 49-year-old son of Agriprocessors founder A. Aaron Rubashkin, was arrested twice last fall by federal authorities. Although allowed to post bail following his first arrest on immigration-related charges at the end of October, the court denied his second request for bail when he was re-arrested in mid-November on additional charges that included multi-million-dollar bank fraud.
Rabbi Yaakov Wasser, vice president of the New York-based Rabbinical Council of America, said Rubashkin would not flee if given bail.
“Sholom is well aware of how many people have advocated on his behalf, and a betrayal of their confidence would cause irrevocable damage to himself, his family, his community, and the many honorable individuals who have shown their support for him,” Wasser said in a written statement, included in court documents, after visiting the Dubuque Law Enforcement Center
Guy Cook, Rubashkin’s attorney, criticized U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles for referring to Israel’s Law of Return in his decision to deny bail and federal prosecutors for including the law in their arguments.
“Under the government’s view, every Jew in this country is at a greater risk of flight because of their Jewish heritage,” said Cook of the Des Moines law firm Grefe & Sidney. “[The government] has asserted the so-called ‘Law of Return,’ which was designed to protect Jews from being persecuted, and ironically used it against this man to detain him pending his trial.”
Israel’s Law of Return provides citizenship to any Jew and members of his family who express desire to settle in the country. Although other considerations were cited by Scoles in his decision to keep Rubashkin detained, his ruling concerning the Israeli law have drawn the most scrutiny from Jewish groups.
Cook said that prosecutors for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Iowa, who argued before the court that the Israeli law should be a factor, must also believe that U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff are a greater risk of flight because of their Jewish status.
“[The rabbis] are here to say that this man — because of his faith, because of what he believes in — will not flee,” Cook said. “His character, his religious tenants, would prevent him from that. Specifically, if he was to flee in light of this support that these gentlemen have provided through their organizations, he would dishonor not only himself, but dishonor these men — something he will not do.”
In a court filing that coincided with the press conference, Cook argued that the government’s assertion that Rubashkin “violated his previous conditions of pretrial release by committing bank fraud, attempting to obstruct justice, and tampering with evidence” was false.
A travel was bag found in Rubashkin’s home in Postville that contained a substantial amount of cash, not taken by arresting law enforcement and estimated to be several thousand dollars, according to the prosecutors seeking to deny bail.
Rubashkin’s attorneys assert that the money was a combination of ritual silver coins using during the Jewish holiday of Purim, charity consisting of $1 bills and donations from the Jewish community to be used for Rubashkin’s legal fees. The attorneys further argue that the money and other items, including passport documents, had been moved from a dresser to the closet to prevent “mischief” by Rubashkin’s autistic son. The defense also asserted that nearly all of the money previously viewed by arresting officers in the Rubashkin home has been used for family expenses, and that less than $3,500 remains.
If Rubashkin is not granted bail, he will remain in federal custody until his trial, which is currently scheduled to begin this September in Cedar Rapids.
Representatives of the U.S. attorney’s office continue to have no comment about the ongoing bail proceedings.
Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, made national headlines when it was the site of a massive immigration raid on May 12, 2008. The plant, now in bankruptcy, is operating under the watchful eye of a court-appointed trustee. Joseph Sarachek, the trustee, is hopeful that a new buyer will be found for the company during the first quarter of 2009.
The Dubuque Telegraph Herald has video from the press conference.