US court: Ex-Agriprocessors manager to remain jailed

Magsitrate judge dismisses argument that prosecutors labeled exec a flight risk because he is Jewish.

Sholom Rubashkin 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Sholom Rubashkin 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
A magistrate judge has ordered the former manager of the Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa to remain jailed, dismissing arguments that prosecutors labeled him a flight risk simply because he is a Jew. The ruling came late Monday after lawyers for Sholom Rubashkin accused US government attorneys of discrimination after they filed papers arguing that his automatic right to Israeli citizenship increased the risk he would flee the country if released. US Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles wrote in his opinion that Rubashkin should remain in custody primarily because he had the means and the incentive to flee. Scoles cited the discovery of about $20,000 in cash, Rubashkin's birth certificate and his children's passports stored in a travel bag rather than in lock-boxes. "Defendant's proffer that the money was needed for household expenses is simply not credible," Scoles wrote, noting that Rubashkin had gone to Israel in December 2007 and been in Canada shortly before his arrest this autumn. Scoles added that at least one other Agriprocessors manager had already fled to Israel via Canada. Agriprocessors was the site of a May 12 immigration raid in which 389 people were arrested - more than a third of the plant's work force. The company and top managers were also accused of violating state and federal laws dealing with child labor, wage requirements and safety rules. The company filed for bankruptcy protection and has been appointed a third-party overseer. In court papers filed last week, Rubashkin's attorneys claimed the government was unfairly singling out their client as a Jew despite never making similar claims against Irish-American defendants or others who could similarly claim automatic citizenship abroad. "The prosecutors' purpose is clearly to single out Jews because they allegedly have foreign ties as de facto dual citizens, and the effect of what it proposes will be to single out Jews - because of their belief in Jewish flight risk, these prosecutors will always ask, 'Is the defendant a Jew?'" his lawyers wrote. Scoles chastised Rubashkin's attorney Baruch Weiss for focusing on the question of Rubashkin's "de facto citizenship" after having argued in earlier hearings that his client would not bother fleeing to Israel because he would simply be extradited back to the US. Prosecutors argued in court papers filed last week that they were concerned specifically about Rubashkin because he had not only access to a country where he could claim alternate citizenship, but the motivation and resources to flee. "That [the] defendant's connections to Israel include rights to de facto Israeli citizenship has nothing, per se, to do with [the] defendant's race or religion," prosecutors wrote. "That [the] defendant's right to foreign citizenship is based upon [the] defendant's cultural heritage is solely a matter of foreign law." The government commonly relies on evidence of ties to foreign countries - including financial and familial links - when arguing against releasing defendants before trial, prosecutors argued. "If someone were Guatemalan, or had potential dual citizenship, that's something we'd look at, but it's only one part of our argument," US Attorney's Office spokesman Bob Teig told The Jerusalem Post. Teig declined to comment further on the case because trial is still pending. Rubashkin, 49, has been in custody since his arrest in November on charges of fraud, identity theft and harboring illegal immigrants. He pleaded not guilty to a new indictment filed last week against him and another employee on 12 charges involving harboring and aiding and abetting undocumented workers, identity theft and bank fraud, Teig said. His attorneys have requested that he be released to home detention under the round-the-clock security supervision - the same treatment given to disgraced financier Bernard Madoff, who is under house arrest at his Manhattan apartment after being criminally charged in the collapse of his money management business. Rubashkin attorney Guy Cook said he would appeal. "There's no violent crime, no serious risk," Cook said. "The man has 10 children. His family is in Postville." AP contributed to this report.