Rubashkin appeals conviction, sentence

January 5, 2011

(RNS) Convicted businessman Sholom Rubashkin, former executive of
the now-defunct Agriprocessors kosher meat plant, has filed an appeal in
hopes of a new trial, or at least a reduced sentence.

Rubashkin, 51, was found guilty in November 2009 on 86 counts of
fraud related to his management of Agriprocessors, once the nation's
largest producer of kosher meat, in Postville, Iowa.

He has been ordered to pay more than $26 million in restitution and
has begun serving his 27-year sentence at a federal prison in Otisville,
N.Y., where attorneys say the ultra-Orthodox Jewish businessman has
access to kosher food, prayer books and ritual items, but lacks the
necessary minyan -- a quorum of 10 Jewish men -- for certain prayers.

In a brief filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis,
Mo., Rubashkin's attorneys argued that their client was treated far more
harshly than other white-collar criminals, and that presiding Judge
Linda Reade should have recused herself due to her involvement in the
planning of the May 2008 immigration raid of the Postville plant.

Rubashkin's supporters also point out he is a first-time offender
with 10 children, including an autistic teenager, and deeply committed
to his religious community.

"When viewed in the context of other federal sentences imposed on
defendants who have committed similar offenses, it is clear that there
is an enormous disparity between the sentence imposed on Sholom
Rubashkin and sentences of other nonviolent white-collar offenders who
did much greater harm to the public," the brief states, calling the
27-year sentence "procedurally flawed and substantively unreasonable."

The 2008 raid, the largest immigration enforcement action in U.S.
history, revealed nearly 400 undocumented workers, including minors,
working at the plant. But federal prosecutors opted not to pursue the
labor charges after the decisive fraud conviction, citing the time and
expense of conducting another trial and detaining the workers as
potential witnesses.

The government's response to the appeal is due Jan. 25.