As part of the latest effort to overturn a prison sentence decried by legal experts as a travesty of justice, attorneys for Sholom Rubashkin filed a 2255 petition asking U.S. District Judge Linda Reade last week to overturn his conviction and vacate the 27-year prison term to which she sentenced him in 2010.
It was a sentence that shocked and horrified Jews and legal scholars throughout the world when it was handed down three years ago and the latest revelations included in this filing only compound the feelings of outrage.
The notion that a first-time offender could be sentenced to 27 years in jail for financial misconduct — a punishment that exceeds sentences given to second-degree murderers and terrorists — is incomprehensible in itself.
No less than 86 legal experts — including former attorneys general, senior Department of Justice officials, United States attorneys and federal judges — signed a friend of the court brief in this case, stating that the sentence was unfair and unreasonable.
Rubashkin’s extraordinarily stiff sentence was largely the result of the district court’s finding that the loss incurred by the banks involved in this case was approximately $26 million, though another defendant found responsible in an unrelated case for a similar loss amount received a sentence of a year and a day.
Prior to sentencing, attorneys for Rubashkin had argued that much of this loss was actually the fault of the U.S. government’s insistence that no member of the Rubashkin family could be involved in any bid for Agriprocessors’ assets. This “No-Rubashkin edict,” coupled with a governmental threat of forfeiture, deterred interested buyers.
In the sentencing memorandum, the Judge rejected this claim, asserting that “the attorney for the Trustee in the Bankruptcy Action, Paula Roby, testified that there was no such condition attached to the sale of Agriprocessors. The court credits Roby’s testimony and discredits testimony from Defendant’s witnesses.”
In the newest court briefs, compelling proofs are provided detailing how not only was this condition a reality, but how the government sought to conceal this fact from Rubashkin’s lawyers, and presented misleading evidence to the court.
In an affidavit, a representative of a company that had originally stated its intent to buy Agriprocessors for $40 million states that the U.S. Attorney’s office had insisted that no member of the Rubashkin family or any related entity could have any management, consulting or ownership role in the business going forward.
If it was discovered that any Rubashkin was involved in the business going forward, there would be “very bad consequences.” The would-be buyer was frightened by the threat.
In the end, the company was sold for a fraction of that amount, only $8.5 million.
The judge said Tuesday that she is starting to skim Sholom Rubashkin’s application for post-conviction relief. She told attorneys she has many other appeals to consider before Rubashkin’s, and, “I’m not going to get to this for a while.”
We respectfully urge Her Honor to immediately bring to an end this colossal miscarriage of justice that is a disgrace to the entire judicial system of the United States.
From the time this saga was brought to the attention of the public, Torah Jewry has demonstrated great unity, anguish and genuine concern. Multitudes continue to daven for Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka, and closely follow every new development in this case.
As a community and as individuals, we are also obligated to continue to undertake the requisite hishtadlus on his behalf. In order to make it possible for the legal efforts to continue, large sums must be raised to pay for attorney fees in this heartrending case of pidyon shevuyim. Torah Jewry has rallied on Rubashkin’s behalf in the previous chapters of the legal battle; we must do so again now.
Contributions can be sent to:
Klal Yisroel Fund
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Monsey, NY 10952