OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A former Iowa kosher slaughterhouse executive convicted of financial fraud should get a new trial because of possible bias by the judge overseeing the case, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said in a brief filed with a federal appeals court.
Sholom Rubashkin, former vice president of Agriprocessors Inc., was convicted in 2009 of 86 financial fraud charges. They stemmed from fake invoices he created to show a lender that the plant in Postville, Iowa, had more money flowing in than it did. Prosecutors say the fraud cost the bank $26 million, and Rubashkin was sentenced to 27 years.
Rubashkin's arrest followed a May 2008 immigration raid at the plant, which records show Chief U.S. District Court Judge Linda Reade was involved in planning. Reade met with investigators and prosecutors and discussed charging strategies, numbers of anticipated arrests, logistics and other issues related to the investigation, according to evidence obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Rubashkin's attorney.
Reade later presided over Rubashkin's federal fraud case, and his attorneys have appealed his conviction to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because of her involvement in the raid. His attorneys claim Reade could not have been impartial at trial.
The ACLU brief, which was filed last Monday with the 8th Circuit, doesn't accuse Reade of misconduct but says there was the potential for bias during the trial. The amicus filing was first reported by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.
"Mr. Rubashkin's conviction should be vacated and he should 'get his day in court' with a tribunal that is not an arm of the prosecution," the ACLU brief said. "Due process demands it."
Reade's office at the Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids was closed Sunday. A message left there was not immediately returned.
In response to an earlier Rubashkin appeal in federal court, Reade ruled that his attorneys could have sought her recusal before trial but didn't. She also said her recusal was not required because she was doing the duties required as chief judge to ensure court proceedings during the raid were efficient and that the constitutional rights of the defendants were protected.
The Postville plant gained attention after the raid, in which 389 illegal immigrants were detained. At the time, it was the largest single-site immigration raid in U.S. history. The plant eventually filed for bankruptcy and was later sold.
Rubashkin also faced 72 charges for allegedly allowing illegal immigrants to work at the plant, but Reade dismissed those charges. A jury also later acquitted him of state child labor charges.Tags: