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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

First Rubashkin trial ends with 86 guilty verdicts

By Lynda Waddington | 11.13.09 | 10:39 am

A jury in Sioux Falls, S.D., returned to the courtroom late Thursday afternoon and delivered judgment on former Agriprocessors manager Sholom M. Rubashkin: Guilty on 86 of 91 possible counts.

Sholom M. Rubashkin

Sholom M. Rubashkin

Rubashkin, who is the 50-year-old son of Agriprocessors founder and president A. Aaron Rubashkin, was convicted of all possible money laundering and mail, wire and bank fraud charges. He was also convicted on 15 out of 20 counts of failing to provide timely pay to livestock auctions and providers.

The verdict followed nearly a month of testimony and evidence in which the government sought to paint Rubashkin as one, if not the, mastermind in a plot to defraud creditors. The defense team, in contrast, chose to portray Rubashkin as inexperienced, naive and unprepared to serve as day-to-day manager for such a large undertaking as the kosher meatpacking plant in Postville.

Following the lengthy reading of the verdict, Rubashkin was taken into federal custody, and his defense attorney, Guy Cook, pledged to appeal. Rubashkin is expected to return to eastern Iowa next week for sentencing and a possible bail hearing pending appeal. He faces a maximum sentence of more than 1,000 years in prison for the guilty verdicts.

An early December trial has been slated for an additional 72 federal immigration-related charges against Rubashkin, and he also faces a trial in state court this spring for possible child labor law violations.

All of the charges stem back to a massive May 12, 2008 immigration raid at the Postville facility. More than 300 immigrant workers detained by federal authorities pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to identity theft within days of their apprehension, and the bulk have been deported after serving brief federal prison sentences. Some immigrant workers, however, continue to live in and around Postville and are expected to be called by the prosecution in the upcoming trial.

The road between the actual raid and the federal trial in Sioux Falls, S.D., was long and has often wound its way through traditionally uncomfortable conversations for Americans regarding immigration, civil rights, religious expression and the composition and worth of charity.

The Rubashkin family, all ultra-orthodox Jews affiliated with the Hasidic Chabad Lubavitch movement, have at times suggested that the charges against them stem not from any alleged illegal activity, but from anti-Semitism. Throughout the investigation, and especially following the initial arrest and jailing of Sholom Rubashkin, many of the Jewish religious faithful, either through their own conscience or through the prodding and help of Chabad, have defended the Rubashkins from wrongdoing and stood as character witnesses for the family’s contributions.

Both inside and outside of Jewish circles, however, the Rubashkins have drawn criticism, many believing that generosity was born of ill-gotten-gains, harvested on the back of an underpaid and often mistreated immigrant workforce. Media reports, which prompted the move of the trials from Iowa to South Dakota, have given supposed victims of child labor and sexual harassment at the Postville plant a voice.

The company known as Agriprocessors fell into bankruptcy last year, and has re-emerged as AgriStar under the new ownership of SHF Industries, a venture of Canadian businessman Hershey Friedman. Heshy Rubaskin, brother to Sholom and son of Aaron, continues to work at the reborn business.

At least six former members of plant management or the human resources department have pleaded guilty in the wake of the 2008 immigration raid:

April 13, 2009 — Elizabeth Billmeyer, 48 and the former human resources manager, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens for profit and one count of knowingly accepting false resident alien cards.

March 19, 2009 — Penny Ann Hanson, 41 and a former human resources employee, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements on immigration documents.

Dec. 10, 2008 — Karina Pilar Freund, 29 and a former human resources employee, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of aiding and abetting a pattern or practice of hiring undocumented aliens.

Oct. 29, 2008 — Laura Althouse, 38 and a former human resources employee, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Aug. 27, 2008 — Martin De La Rosa-Loera, 43 and a former plant supervisor, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the harboring of undocumented aliens.

Aug. 20, 2008 — Juan Carlos Guerrero-Espinoza, 35 and a former plant supervisor, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to hire illegal aliens and one count of aiding and abetting the hiring of illegal aliens.

Former plant operations manager Brent Beebe, 51, will soon be tried on immigration-related charges in federal court. Two additional plant managers — Hosam Amara and Zeev Levi — also face criminal charges, but have yet to be apprehended by authorities.

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  • levotb

    Just because the owners are Hasitic Jews doesn't give them the right to break U.S. laws. Aiding and abetting illegal aliens, document fraud are felonies. The judge should throw the book at these lawbreakers.

    One important element to this story was not mentioned by the writer: As soon as the plant reopened, American citizens and legal aliens by the hundreds lined up for these difficult and dirty jobs!! This put the lie to GW Bush's statement and other Open Borders fools like McCain that “illegals do the jobs Americans won't do”.

    • zamjr86

      rubashkin is not the one at fault here. the government is framing him, and when inspectors needed an inside look at the company they were turned away 3 times because they needed their legal papers.

      • kingkongiiii

        Obama-nation government at work here, IMHO. I saw the charges and the rebutal. Much of it is trumped up nonsense. It's comparable to saying Obama should be jailed for life for not proving he is a citizen from birth.

  • get_involved


  • zamjr86

    rubashkin is not the one at fault here. the government is framing him, and when inspectors needed an inside look at the company they were turned away 3 times because they needed their legal papers.

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